Skip to main content

Full text of "The dancer of Shamahka"

See other formats



Presented to the 


by the 



am ibg& 


Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2008 with funding from 

Microsoft Corporation 

The Dancer of Shamahka 


The Dancer of Shamahka 

by Armen Ohanian 

- ^ 


I danced in the fire — 
Behold me, the Flame! 
I danced in abysses — 
Behold me, the Wind ! 

P ,1 

Jonathan Cape 

Eleven Gower Street, London 

First published 1922 
All rights reserved 

Printed in Great Britain by Butler & Tanner, Frome and London 

Letter to Armen Ohanian from Anatole France 


Dear Mademoiselle, — 

I thank you very much for having allowed me to 
read these pages from your memories. 

You have put into these descriptions and tales the 
same charm that exhales from your eyes and your 
gestures. I do not know what subtle art is hidden 
beneath your perfect simplicity, but you have known 
how to paint with a word the dawns and the sunsets 
of the Caucasus, and to reveal a thousand secrets of 
Nature and of life. 

It is delicious to see you as a little child with your 
sisters, Anahide, the mathematican ; Heguine, who 
knows in history only the adventures of the djinns, 
the peris, the houris, and the little Katarine, destined 
to die without having sinned. You enrapture us, 
dear Armen, with your revelations of your " minds 
like those of little wild animals." 

And what a miracle of naivete, your disputes with 
old Nani as to the superiority of Christian faith over 
the religion of Mohammed ! 

You lead us into scenes which can never be for- 
gotten : the drowsy school of Toutousc, the services 
of Holy Week, the festival of Easter, when one cats 
kebab of mutton, the meeting with the handsome 
peasant, and that solemn night of watching when, as 



you have said, it seemed that the moon was broken to 
fill the assembly with its light. How much that 
contains of poetry and of truth ! How beautiful 
it is ! 

Do not refuse, dear mademoiselle, the felicitations 
and the thanks of your old friend, 





Zergueran ......... 9 

Dawns of the Caucasus— The 6even souls of a cat — The visit of 
the dandansaze — The Evil Eye and little Katarine — The sacred 
month of Mouharcm — Easter in Armenia — Mingula dances on the 
tombs of the saints — Evening — Night at the miraculous springs — 
The bride of the sculptor of amber — The dance of the Mongolian 
dervishes — An evening with the priest Ter-Barsegh — The tale 
of the fakir and his Onyx — The death of Katarine — Ter-Barsegh 
describes the creation of man. 

Shamahka ......... 5 1 

The love of King Dandouk for the Queen of Shamahka — Ker- 
Galassi, Mountain of the Virgin — Mary of Magdala — Alikh speaks 
of love and Zoroaster — My father's library— Sunday teaches the 
meaning of eternity — The wrath of the mountains destroys 

Baku .......... 68 

The shores of the Caspian Sea— We enter Baku — The nightmare 
of Russian schools — Prince Galitzine, the Archangel — The 
masseur's bombs — Rahim, the Tartar lover — The Cossack terror 
— Massacre — Rahim risks his life — The disguised Armenians — I 
watch in the night — New massacre — The Cossacks charge — The 
Tsar gives his people a constitution. 


My unknown liusband -A bridal journey to Resht — The house of 
Assatour-Khan I study the duties of an Armenian wife — The 
Evil Spirits seize me- -The civilized uncle takes me to the bazaars 
— The dervish reads the stars -The nuptial bath • 1 meet my 




Teheran 120 

The little palace of the vizir — My husband goes to save the world 
— Death — General Sasso-Tates is generous — The little eunuch 
describes Europe — The love of Queen-of-the-Crowns — The house 
of Envar-ed-Doule — Persian nights — Prince Sword-of-the- 
Empire calls — The strange birth of Prince Sword-of-the-Empire — 
The wise man Seied-ed-Dine consults the omen — The omens do 
not deceive — The Queen makes me beautiful — The love of 
Bahman — The real life of Persian women — Djende and the saintly 
fakir- — The marriage of little Suhun, the leper — The merchant of 
brocades — The French Princess and the Palace of Forty Mirrors — ■ 
The Shah gives audience in the palace of Dar-Bar — A summer's 
night with the courtesans of Teheran— Shah-Abdul-Azim cele- 
brates Mouharem — A Christian in the mosque — The Queen 
amuses herself — A comet comes out of the west — Prince M . . . 
es-Saltaneh sings his last song — The little Shah is unhappy — The 
daughter of a djinn — I dance for the Shah — Scandal in Persia — 
The story of Mougdoussi-Khanoum — I go on pilgrimage. 


Across the Caucasus . ...... 205 

A night in the desert — Rahim's last gift— Knarik dies for love — 
The career of Eyes of Fire- — The strange history of Georgia — The 
Dance of the Swords for the Viceroy- — The merchant of swords 
gives a banquet — The jeweller's dream — Schiller in Akoulis — A 
train to the Black Sea. 

Constantinople and Greece ...... 222 

I speak of the rope in the house of the hangman— Nasle Khanoum 
outwits me — Annette knocks at my door — A night of the Bos- 
phorus — Greece. 

Egypt .......... 237 

The catacombs — How Semiramis loved the King of Armenia — 
The bestiality of civilization — I see the Sphinx by moonlight — The 
heart of Pharaoh — Our dream of the civilized countries — The 
6acred dance of maternity — I dance for the two Khedivas — A 
civilized Armenian patriarch— The wager between Pasha and 
Bey — My Neopolitan count — The Englishmen tell me of music- 
halls— Farewell to Asia. 

Armenia : Zergueran 

AH yes, I remember my childhood, fresh and rosy 
as the dawns of the Caucasus, from which the 
people of my country must have stolen the blinding 
colours for their scarves and sashes. I remember the 
peaks of blue and white slowly unveiling themselves 
from the heavy clouds. I remember the yellow deserts 
emerging and stretching far, barren and sad, quivering 
at the foot of savage cliffs like pride subdued by barbar- 
ous masters. I remember the small Tartar villages 
clinging like eagles' nests to the brink of abysses, the red 
citadels, the Byzantine domes of churches, the slender 
elegant minarets. I remember the chants of the 
muezzins saluting the rising sun and mingling with the 
grave ringing of Christian bells to glorify the same God 
at the same hour. My ears still hear the songs of birds 
and the metallic tinkling of ornaments worn by the 
Armenian women. Veiled in red and carrying vases on 
their shoulders they come and go from the distant 
spring, hastening to offer their husbands, with the smile 
of morning, the freshness of water in a copper jar. 

" The world awakens," said our old Tartar nurse, 
rubbing together her wrinkled hands. 

Ah yes, indeed, old Nani, we saw the whole world 
awakening before our eyes. But to-day I do not know 
even the awakening of my nearest neighbours, shut like 
me in these immense prisons of brick blackened by 
smoke, and I sec neither the sky of morning nor the sky 
of night. 



The earth awoke. And beneath the cascade which 
fell from the cliffs to water our gardens, I was mingling 
my happy shouts with the cries of my sisters, plunging 
in the white foam. My mother, smiling to see us so 
joyous, gently coaxed us into the house. 

But soon, clad in light garments, red, yellow and 
blue, with Turkish slippers on our feet and white 
turbans on our heads, we were climbing like monkeys 
up the fruit trees. The servants begged us in vain to 
descend for the morning tea ; we were happy, and 
sitting on the branches we bit into the juicy pears. 

Then came the beautiful silhouette of my mother in 
her Georgian veils, with all her bracelets accompanying 
so prettily her grieved gestures. Her beautiful eyes 
looked up at us, pure and limpid as the diamonds that 
sparkled in her little crown. 

" You little monkeys ! " she cried. " Cholera is 
mowing down millions of people in the neighbouring 
cities, whole villages have been buried ! Come down 
quickly from those trees, it is death that you eat in their 
fruit ! " 

She clasped us in her arms, her veils fell like mist 
around our heads, and her lips were soft and perfumed 
as she kissed us good morning. 

The sunlight fell across a large carpet spread on the 
lawn. Kneeling on it, at the edge of a Persian cloth 
handpainted and ornamented with Arabic writing, we 
awaited the solemn approach of our father. Our 
shoulders were chastely hidden beneath shawls from 
Kashmir, our feet modestly covered by shoes. Jests in 
a low voice, stifled laughter, the reproachful eyes of our 
mother trying to overcome by exaggerated severity her 
desire to laugh at our frolic. Finally the grave appear- 



ance of our father. The servants, bowing low, their 
veils dropped over their faces, respectfully turned their 
backs upon him. We all rose, with timid gestures. 

A short prayer, and my father took his large cup 
which awed by its important air our little cups suited to 
mere small girls. He drank slowly, in silence. A few 
seconds passed, insupportably long. At last they 
ended, my father departed. What joyous excitement ! 
The shawls were thrown aside, the shoes kicked off, the 
servants came to life again. Pushing our mother away 
from the samovar, each of us struggled to be first to 
pour herself a cup of tea, in spite of the energetic 
protests of our mother and the servants who expected 
to see us scalded by the boiling water. Plates were 
broken under our feet, eggs rolled from one side of the 
cloth to the other, the honey was spilled. My mother, 
really vexed at last, rose and threatened to call our 
father. The very word subdued us. 

Suddenly the voice of my father was heard calling 
from the terrace to my mother. " Khanoum, where 
are your little savages ? Have them take their books 
and papers and go to Toutouse to prepare their lessons." 

Heavens, what desolation ! 

Half an hour later we were obliged to go, all four. 
The piles of books on our heads impressed our servants 
by their number. The servants followed us with 
great respect ; however, they sincerely pitied us. 

We began to climb Toutouse, the little mountain 
near the entrance to our large fruit gardens. The 
climb was difficult ; the stones, already heated by the 
sun, burned through our thin slippers. The servants 
came in a line behind us, bearing on their heads and 
shoulders a quantity of little rugs, cushions, mattresses 



and shawls, while old Nani, guardian of our seraglio, 
followed at a little distance, knitting. She felt even 
more than we the misery of our hard fate. When we 
paused to rest she overtook us, lamenting : " Your 
mother is a true Khanoum, knowing neither how to 
write nor how to read. What an idea, to make you 
languish, bent under books and weighed down upon 
your stomachs just after breakfast ! " She detested our 
books, and we loved her because of that. 

The carpets were unrolled beneath the walnut trees, 
and we sprawled upon the mattresses while the servants 
arranged cushions to support us more comfortably. A 
painted earthern pitcher filled with fresh water was 
placed beside each of us by my father's order ; thus we 
had no excuse for leaving Toutouse before noon. 

Arithmetic ! How I detested it ! Anahide was 
quick and sure with figures, so it was she who did my 
sums. Little Marian despaired because of her writing ; 
my father found it ugly. As mine was beautiful, I 
covered the pages for her, and by making a few changes 
here and there she was saved from great efforts. 

The hours yawned with boredom. For distraction, 
we changed our places every moment, pretending that 
the sunlight was moving upon us, and the servants 
left their sewing to rearrange our carpets, mattresses 
and cushions. Then we compared our lessons. We 
decided that the most difficult was geography, for my 
father had given us those books in French, of which we 
knew only the alphabet. 

" He, ile, li-li-li," repeated Anahide. " It is land 
surrounded by water. Lac, lac, cla-cla-cla ; it is water 
surrounded by land." 

From time to time, struck by a discovery, we dropped 



the books to discuss it and to explain it to the servants, 
whose astonishment at our culture flattered us agree- 
ably. Thus Anahide informed us that Russia is above 
the Caucasus. That meant that one only need climb 
the highest mountains, like Elbrous or Ararat, to be in 

Our sister Heguine alone was plunged sincerely into 
the study of Persian history, from which she remem- 
bered only the stories of the djinns, the peris and the 
houris, without giving any attention to dynasties or 
kings. Her fancy painted so well the ancient myths 
and legends, added to the tales our servants told, that 
my father, admirer of poetry and a poet himself, easily 
forgave the complete absence of dates, dynasties and 
peoples in her accounts of history. 

As for me, I was only anxious to know if the author 
of my book was right in saying that the seven lives of 
cats were only a superstition. As I always saw cats 
crouching mysteriously near the tripods of old serpent 
charmers, and as I felt an incomprehensible fear of 
them, I w r as persuaded that the author of my book was 
mistaken. Since people believed that cats had seven 
souls, they must have them. 

It was finally decided to send one of the servants 
to bring a cat to throw from the top of the tallest tree. 
If the cat, dead for an instant, took again suddenly his 
second soul, then he would have others. If he died at 
once, then the author was right, and our belief a 

The cat was soon brought, the servant climbed the 
tree and threw him. We watched him whirl through 
the air and strike the hard earth. There was an instant 
of silence. The cat lay motionless. Then suddenly 



he fled, with a frightful yowl. The people were right : 
a cat had seven souls. 

One day, suddenly, my sister Heguine complained 
of a terrible toothache, she who had marvellous teeth. 
Nani examined her mouth. " No, no, little daughter, 
your teeth are like the snow on the mountains. There 
is not the smallest speck on them." 

But the pain grew worse. Heguine screamed. She 
rolled on the earth, tearing at her hair and her lips. 
Servants ran for my mother. She came quickly, 
followed by the whole household. My sister could not 
be comforted ; her shrieks pierced our hearts. Some 
one was sent for the dandansaze. Every moment my 
mother dispatched another servant to command him 
to hasten. 

Finally he arrived, the dandansaze. His air was 
haughty and mysterious, and his look full of pride at 
having been summoned by the great Khanoum, my 
mother. He brought with him an enormous bag of 
instruments, more mysteriously terrifying than their 
owner. Stopping at a little distance, he uttered a few 
cabalistic words, then, approaching my sister, he looked 
at her fixedly. No effect ; Heguine continued to 
scream. With solemn gestures he hung around her neck 
a talisman on a thread. She did not stop shrieking. 

Embarrassed, with a thousand apologies and obei- 
sances, the dandansaze asked my mother's permission 
to look into the mouth of the Khanoum Koutchoulou, 
the little lady. My mother, hesitating, but distracted 
by Heguine's suffering, consented ; the mouth opened. 
The dandansaze stood astounded. There was no 
sign of a sick tooth. 


" Which tooth distresses the Khanoum Kout- 
choulou ? " he asked. 

" All of them ! " cried my sister. " All of them 
hurt me ! " 

" No, no, Khanoum ! " protested the dandansaze. 
" Only one of them is sick, but the suffering is reflected 
in them all. The sick tooth must be decayed at the 
root like an old tree. That is why one can see nothing 

" Show which one it is, my beloved ! " said my 
mother, embracing my sister and weeping with her. 

" I do not know. All of them — all — these two 
front ones." 

" Yes, it must be one of these two," announced the 
dandansaze. He touched them. " It is this one. It 
must be pulled." 

The servants cried out in horror, we wept, my 
mother protested. Heguine, absorbed in her pain, 
did not listen, but continued to weep. The dandan- 
saze, bowing low to my mother, insisted obstinately 
that the tooth should be pulled. At last the command 
was given. At the appearance of enormous pincers, 
large enough to pull the nails from a house-beam, 
Heguine fainted. 

A desire to save her from the hands of the assassin 
filled me with fury. I screamed and fought ; it was 
already too late. A marvellous tooth was torn from 
my sister's mouth. But the nerve was not yet cut ; 
the poor tooth, like a pretty pearl, hesitated to fall. 
My sister, roused by the pain, awoke, and fighting the 
hand of the butcher kept him from finishing his work. 
Embracing her head, kissing her eyes, weeping, I tried 
to replace the tooth in its place 

d.s. 1 5 B 


Suddenly, silence. My father had arrived. Tremb- 
ling, in a few words my mother explained the scene. 
My father himself set the tooth back in its place, 
commanding my sister to remain all that day with her 
teeth clenched. Perhaps, the nerve not being cut, the 
tooth might yet be saved. The dandansaze went away 
in confusion, his great pincers having failed to pull one 
little tooth. My father said to my mother, " Khan- 
oum, instead of allowing your child to be disfigured 
it would be better to prevent her from bathing at dawn 
in the waterfall and thus taking cold." Then he 

" The pain, little one, has it passed ? " old Nani asked 
tenderly. Heguine nodded. " Khanoum," Nani said 
to my mother, " I told you not to break the jaw of 
this poor baby. It is because of some one's evil eye 
that this calamity came so suddenly without visible 

My mother was ready to believe it. She tenderly 
supported Heguine toward the house. It was agreed 
by all that my sister was the victim of a jealousy. 

All that day the women of the village came to ask 
news of the little one, each bringing remedies and 
advice. Before evening Heguine's breast was covered 
by talismans and amulets which my mother permitted 
the peasants to lend her. Her feet wore countless 
mysterious cords. She was seated on warm bricks, and 
before her, on the red coals in a brazier, the excre- 
ment of sparrows and hairs from a red horse's tail were 
burned as a charm against evil spirits. The room was 
filled with our nearest neighbours who had come, 
according to our custom in times of affliction, to watch 
through the night. 



One of them brought a strangely shaped egg. She 
assured my mother that it was the egg of a cock, and 
that it would cure the sick who had the courage to 
swallow it in its shell. 

When night had fallen an assembly of neighbours 
and servants squatted around Heguine's mattress. 
Crouched beside her, I kept one of her hands in mine, 
while my mother tenderly fondled the other, stooping 
now and then to push the hair back from Heguine's 
great sorrowful eyes and to kiss her pale cheek. Thus 
we listened to a thousand stories of the evil eye of the 
jealous and the envious, who by foul magic cause wicked 
spirits to enter the mouth in the form of diseases, there 
to pull the beautiful teeth and to cut the long hair of 
little girls whose beauty, by attracting evil thoughts, 
becomes the source of numerous woes. Therefore the 
women lamented Heguine's beauty, saying that beauty 
is ever a danger and a curse, the source of calamities, the 
bringer of evil. Or perhaps it was the happiness and 
prosperity of our parents that had brought upon little 
Hcguine this terrible magic done by some bitter ill- 

But in the morning Heguine was gay, and her tooth 
was in its place, quite unharmed. 

It was believed in all that country that the wicked 
magic of some person envious of my parents had caused 
my sister Katarine to languish in a mysterious illness, a 
hidden evil which hollowed her checks, made her 
beautiful hands as yellow as wax, and stabbed her like a 
knife, now in the heart, now in the head. We cared 
for her tenderly. We spoke of her as of a fleeting 
visitor. To her the finest fruits, to her the best place, 



the deepest shade beneath the trees, the softest cushions. 
She was an idol, and every word that left her soft 
mouth, deepened at the corners by a timid smile, had 
for us the value of prophecy. All the singers, all the 
musicians, all the charms and spells, had been tried in 
vain ; nothing could prevent this little candle from 

She knew, our Katarine, that she would leave us 
soon, and as she knew that all little children go to 
Heaven, she waited tranquilly for death, happy to 
have been chosen by God to die before having 
sinned. She knew that when she was near to God, 
Who loves little children and listens to their words, 
she would be able to befriend us all by persuading 
Him to be lenient toward the sins of those who 
were dear to her, and she began a thousand promises 
with the words, " When God has taken me to 
Heaven " 

Our old aunt Djavahir had asked the honour of 
sewing her shrouds before her death, according to the 
immemorial custom of the Armenians, and these 
shrouds were kept in a niche in our house, like sacred 

Katarine knew these things (for in our country we 
never hide death from those whom it approaches), and 
in spite of her nine years that knowledge gave her an 
aspect of wisdom and separated her from us. She 
spent the days resting on cushions near our mother, 
who, while embroidering tapestries, talked tenderly 
with her dying child. At night she slept in the arms 
of each of us in turn, and once a week she lay between 
father and mother on the balcony, well protected from 
the dampness of the night. 


It was the sacred month of Mouharcm, in the 
springtime. Beyond our little olive garden the scrolled 
and painted mosque, usually so silently pointing toward 
Heaven its long minaret-finger, now opened wide its 
doors to throngs of the faithful. They came to mourn, 
in that sorrowful month, the deaths of their saints 
Hossein and Ali. In that same month long ago these 
two martyrs fell beneath the green banner of Islam, and 
since that time the Shiite Mussulman mourns for them 
during forty days and nights of every year, honouring 
their memory with chants and dancing and the thunder 
of drums. They believe that if devotion to these two 
martyrs remains faithful and strong the heroes will one 
day be resurrected ; Ali, the nephew, the adopted son 
and the son-in-law of the Prophet himself, and Hossein, 
the son of Ali, will rise in the flesh to restore the true 
dynasty of Mohammed upon earth. 

Every evening during that long month of mourning 
I was carried into the mosque in the arms of my Tartar 
nurse, to whom my mother, faithful Christian though 
she was, did not dream of refusing permission to fulfil 
her religious duties. For my mother found it natural 
that each race should have its own God and Prophets, 
its own Heaven and Hell. I was too small to be ques- 
tioned about my religion, and thus the doors of the 
mosque, so rigidly closed to all unbelievers, opened 
hospitably to the little intruder who watched eagerly 
all the mysteries of that sacred place. 

In the fantastic light of pine torches hundreds of 
men, naked to the waist and with shaven heads, danced 
around an old well that held the bones of those who had 
beaten themselves to death in the dance. Led by a 
chief who struck his head and slashed the air with a 



hissing sword, they passed before my eyes in an endless 
leaping circle, beating themselves with iron chains that 
scattered drops of blood. Under the red light of the 
torches, surrounded by agonized shadows, covered with 
streaming blood and sweat, they danced and chanted 
like visions from hell, while the drums beat like the 
pulses of monstrous things, and all around them, close 
against the walls, the crouching women sobbed. 

" Khanoum Koutchoulou," admitted my old nurse, 
leading me home through the cool darkness, " it is 
true that your religion is easier than ours." 

Indeed, our religion did not seem to me a very hard 
thing. Our household was contented to thank God 
for each meal, and to call Him to our aid in time of sick- 
ness (not neglecting any charms that might also guard 
against the servants of the Prince of Darkness). My 
father agreed with his brother, the priest Ter-Barsegh, 
in saying that God is everywhere at all hours, and 
therefore we were permitted to pray to Him when we 
chose. Before sleeping and after rising, kneeling beside 
our mattresses on the floor, we earnestly repeated the 
Lord's Prayer. As it was in classical Armenian, of 
which we did not understand one word, we repeated it 
as a cabalistic formula, and, like our Nani, we believed 
that it was a charm to frighten evil spirits. 

In addition to these prayers we observed faithfully 
the Friday fast-day, and the six weeks of Lent, that time 
when our poor Saviour suffered at the hands of Phari- 
sees. During Lent we might not play the thar or 
tambourine, wear gay dresses, or sing or laugh. The 
women wore black, and sighed without ceasing ; we 
children walked gravely. We felt everywhere, invisible 
among us, the presence of a Divine and beautiful 



Being Who was dying, the victim of His great love. 

From our mother we learned that our great joy in 
living was sinful, and that it was a sin to hate the 
wicked or to resist evil, for the Saviour had said that 
when struck on one cheek we must offer the other to be 
struck also. Our little wild-animal minds were quite 
overwhelmed by the impossibility of understanding 
that we must not fight, complain, or, at the very least, 
howl, when our brothers slapped us. 

After six weeks of fasting and sorrow, we passed 
through one day without a smile or a mouthful of food. 
This was the day when our Saviour was dying, and we 
suffered to repay Him for His long martyrdom and His 
terrible death for us. At the end of that day we were 
so happy to learn that He was truly dead now : it had 
been so painful to feel His long agony that it was a joy 
to know that it was ended. We slept tranquilly that 
night, having first looked at the beautiful garments we 
were to wear next day, and at the coloured eggs the 
servants had been preparing for us all that week. 

In the morning all the world was happy, the bells of 
the churches were joyous. My mother, clasping us in 
her arms, smiling again with her beautiful eyes and soft 
lips, wished us joy, and told us that at last the Saviour 
was saved. What happiness to know that He had 
mounted into Heaven ! We were sure that in Heaven 
He would not always be surrounded, as He was on earth, 
by Pharisees. And what happiness to eat again kebab 
of mutton, cakes and fresh butter instead of horrid 
olive-oil ! And all with a light heart, because He was 
dead on the cross for our sins, atoning for them all. 
Now we were pardoned in advance for the sins of all the 
coming year. 



We were quite convinced that our religion was better 
than the Mussulman, and our old Nani, enlightened by 
us on that point, regretted very much that their mul- 
lahs had invented nothing to give them forgetfulness of 
their sins. She thought magnificent our way of wiping 
out ours by simply swallowing a little bread and some 
consecrated wine. And as even she, a Mussulman, told 
us that our religion was the most favourable for the life- 
long tranquillity of the soul, we were firmly persuaded 
of it. 

Their Mouharem was harder than our Lent. Dur- 
ing the whole time the Mussulman children wore deep 
mourning ; from daybreak to sunset they neither ate 
nor drank. And then the terrible penitence of the 
dances in the mosque, where devotees, in order to 
share the fate of their saints, beat themselves even to 
death ! How happy for us that our religion did not so 
torture our bodies, and that our gratitude to our 
Saviour need not go so far ! 

In the middle of the night, awakened by the red 
light that the torches threw upon the domes of our 
churches, I heard the wild sound of their drums and 
their terrible shrieks. With old Nani I climbed to the 
roof of our house where all the Mussulman servants 
crouched moaning, tearing their hair and their gar- 
ments and covering their heads with ashes, while the 
procession of penitents passed below. In spite of 
myself, I burst into tears, and the servants, deeply 
touched that a Christian should shed tears for their 
Prophet, crawled to my feet, gratefully kissing my 
hands and the hem of my nightrobe. 

In my bed, after repeating ' Our Father,' I added, 
" Dear, dear God, how happy I am that Thou hast 



created me Christian and not Mussulman ! I would 
never have been able to pull out my hair and to tear my 
flesh, nor to see my father and brothers killing them- 
selves in honour of the Prophet." 

But, humbled by the sincerity and self-sacrifice of 
those believers, I felt that they were more generous than 
we, because their Prophet received from them a 
profounder love than we gave our Saviour, tortured, 
crucified and dead to atone to God for our sins. A 
remorse gnawed ceaselessly at me during the forty days 
of Mouharem. My sleep on those bloody nights was 
unquiet, full of visions of the dead, and from time to 
time I saw before me the beautiful and Divine Christ 
Who smiled upon me sadly. I felt that He loved me 
more than other Christians, because I alone knew that 
He came in vain, that He was crucified in vain, and 
that we, ungrateful after all He had sacrificed for us, 
had drawn from His words and His death only that 
which enabled us to forget our sins. 

It was the heavy hour of noon. The sun, tired of 
climbing, stopped at the summit of the sky, and like a 
monster in anger poured down upon us his burning 
rays. The earth hardly breathed in the heat, the birds 
and all the little insects of the grass were silent. Far 
in the distance I heard a flute. 

It was not a wedding : nuptial melodies awoke us at 
dawn, singing joy, hope, victory. This flute tore at 
the heart and penetrated the soul like the wailing of a 
child. It was the flute that followed Mingula, my 
cousin possessed by demons, who was being led to 
dance on the tombs of the saints. 

Two aged figures, bent silhouettes, supported her. 



She was adorned as if for a fete. She reeled as she 
walked, like one drunken with wine. Her glossy hair 
and the sorrowful curve of her black eyebrows showed 
through the red veil. Her bracelets made a continuous 
sound, a sound like the rattling of teeth in an uncon- 
trollable shiver. The passers-by avoided her as one 
avoids a leper. 

She fell. The old women, terrified, bent above her, 
murmuring incantations. The musician knelt to play 
into the ears of the prostrate one and thus give her life 
again. The flute called to her tenderly, pleading, 
coaxing ; then, suddenly no longer speaking to her, but 
to the demons who contended for her beautiful body, 
the music became vehement, accusing, terrible. A 
flutter of her hands replied. The old women lifted her 
to her feet. 

Again propped by their bodies she continued her 
pilgrimage. The flute-player followed. The flute 
sang of courage, of endeavour, of brave struggle against 
the powers of darkness that held her. Her body began 
to move in faltering rhythms ; she danced. Her 
clenched hands, now upraised, now striking upon her 
breast, expressed the anguish of life and death, the 
longing for rest, the terror of remaining in this world 
where one suffers so much, the dread of the unknown 
beyond death. How much agony there was in those 
gestures, now clutching at hope, now struggling for 
resignation ! I could not look any longer ; I ran 
blindly from the gateway into the gardens, stumbled, 
fell, and lay motionless on the grass, covering my ears 
with my arms to shut out the sound of the flute. 

The next day my mother took me to see Mingula. 
More beautiful in her shrouds than she had been in her 



brilliant robes, she lay in the middle of a vast room. 
The gentle light of candles caressed her serene face. 
The violet hands of the mourners tightened from time 
to time the white band around her chin. Upon her 
death-bed she seemed remote and eternal as a mummy 
from the times of Pharaoh. 

" My daughter, my child ! " her mother chanted, 
shaking the folded dead hands as if to awaken her. 
" Must I grow old, only to see thee, thee so young, 
stretched out before me in thy shroud ? Oh, Min- 
gula ! Mingula ! " 

" Mingula ! Mingula ! " the mourners repeated, 
like an echo, striking their knees with their violet- 
stained hands. 

" Even yesterday, in thy nuptial garments, wert 
thou not like a bride awaiting her husband on the 
threshold of his chamber ? " her mother cried. " What 
have I failed to give thee to-day, Mingula, that not even 
thine eyelids quiver at my call ? Mingula ! Min- 
gula ! " 

And again the mourners repeated the name like an 
echo far away, while weeping filled the farthest corners 
of the room. 

Unnoticed in a dark niche, my face wet with tears, I 
saw Mingula in the white sunlight of yesterday. I saw 
that body, now grave and motionless as an image of 
stone, clinging to life in rhythmic convulsions, as the sea 
clings to the shore. Again I covered my face, to shut 
out that dance of the frantic body trying to hold the 

But Mingula remained in the depths of my spirit, to 
inspire long years afterward, in moments of desolation 
and pain, the expressive gestures of a rhythmic sorrow. 



Upon the inflamed horizon the sun, draped in ragged 
blue clouds, fell like an old king in anguish. The brief 
Caucasian twilight followed his path above the moun- 

On the trails appeared the slowly moving grey and 
black files of the flocks, urged down to the folds by 
shepherds and their dogs. On the footpaths that led to 
the springs the red veils of the Armenian women moved 
to and fro. Their bracelets tinkled, the copper heels of 
their shoes made delicate clinking sounds upon the 
slabs of stone. One by one they went down to the pool, 
in twos and threes they returned, enriched with the 
fresh water that brimmed their balanced jars and with 
the village news gleaned from the gossip at the spring. 
The bells of the leaders of the flocks tinkled, the dogs 
barked. A labourer passed with his scythe. It might 
have been the new moon that he carried on his shoulder ; 
his step was sure, accustomed to tread without faltering 
the edges of great chasms ; his turbaned head was thrown 
back, his eyes keen as a huntsman's, his body supple. 
He advanced noiselessly and proudly like a panther. In 
passing he would throw us a " Good day," and we 
replied, " God's day." 

An uproar, and we all scurried. My brothers were 
returning from hunting. Burned by the sun, exuber- 
ant, surrounded by hurrying servants, they came through 
the gardens, displaying the numbers of pheasants slung 
on their guns. 

The sun disappeared suddenly, and twilight went 
with him. In a moment, night painted black the blue 
of the sky, and the first stars pierced the darkness. 
Dinner was ready on the balcony. In the middle of a 
large cloth spread on a carpet the candles stood pro- 



tectcd from the wind by glass shades. From copper 
plates many kinds of vegetables and several tiny moun- 
tains of variously coloured rice poured out their odours 
of spices and saffron. In a large earthen basin filled 
with snow a golden melon crushed heaps of grapes, 
plums and cucumbers. A sheepskin filled with wine 
lay beside a porous clay vase of cool water. The 
pheasants, in rows on the platters, all with their little 
claws crisped and their breasts stuffed with raisins and 
onions, awakened in us an instant of melancholy com- 
passion, without diminishing in the least our eagerness 
to eat them. Before each of us, on a painted plate, our 
bread, thin and transparent as paper, lay ready to serve 
as fork and napkin. Not having dreamed of forks or 
napkins, we wrapped the bread about our fingers in 
order to eat daintily. 

We stood while awaiting the entrance of my father 
and brothers. They entered in hierarchal order, and 
my brothers ranged themselves at my father's right on 
little mats laid around the cloth. In the same order we 
were placed at the left of our mother. The Christian 
servants came to stand behind us. The Mussulman ser- 
vants were absent ; they took their meals apart because 
their religion forced them to regard us as impure. 

A short prayer. Then the men took off their high 
fur bonnets, which they laid behind them on the carpet. 
The women kept their veils lowered, but we young 
children were freer ; our faces were uncovered, but the 
movements of our mouths were uncertain and difficult 
for fear of showing our teeth, which in modesty we must 
hide. The young spoke very little, the servants less 
than their masters. We children listened to our ciders 
in silence, and replied with gestures. There was a 



continual movement around us ; a neighbour arrived, 
a few peasants came to talk of business affairs with my 
father. They were at once invited to share our dinner. 
From time to time the servants carried around the 
platters of food, walking across the cloth on naked feet 
that moved carefully among the dishes. Their veils 
fluttered like butterflies above the candles. 

It was night, the mysterious night of shadow and 
stars. My father talked with the peasants, my mother 
sat on the balcony holding in her arms our beautiful 
fading Katarine. I was alone in the garden. I walked 
there like a princess, a mysterious sorrowful happiness 
overflowing my soul. I felt the souls of the roses, of the 
trees, of the grass, of all the living things of the world, 
loosed from their bondage and melting into the shadows 
of the night. The breeze touched my cheeks like invis- 
ible fingers. Outside the walls of the garden music 
called me. 

Its many voices came from the camp of the sick, our 
summer visitors. For our little village of Zergueran 
was not only the most beautiful nook in all the Cauca- 
sus, it was also chosen to be blessed by Heaven. Miracu- 
lous waters sprang from the white breasts of our moun- 
tains into hundreds of basins cut in the rock ; these 
pools were able to cure all the sicknesses of the world. 
It was said that these waters had been given us by the 
magic of an old sibyl, who thus repaid our humble 
peasants for their kindness to the poor old witch. The 
gratitude of this good sibyl, long since dead, still nour- 
ished so well the inhabitants of Zergueran that they did 
no work, but lived happily, well fed by our multitudes 
of visitors. During the summer these sufferers came 



from all the peoples and tribes of leagues around, and 
our true believers only prayed to the good God to 
multiply for our prosperity the numbers of blind, lame 
and paralysed who might leave their afflictions in our 

To welcome them we had neither sanitoriums, hotels 
nor casinos, but since Allah had spread over us the arch 
of his great blue palace no one lamented the lack of these 
unknown comforts. Surrounded by their families, the 
sick were brought to us on mules or in wooden-wheeled 
carts drawn by oxen, and with them came their houses, 
lengths of silk or linen or bales of rugs. Stitched 
together with cords or withes of straw, these became the 
multitudes of tents that rose on all the pleasant spots 
among our cliffs and spread far out on the plain. The 
households brought with them flocks of sheep, goats, 
chickens and cows, that made a happy and exciting 
uproar enlivened by the ferocious barking of guardian 
dogs, as fierce as the hyenas of the cemeteries. 

Amid such surroundings the sick were never bored. 
The days were a continuous fete. During the torrid 
hours of blazing sun the miraculous springs were filled 
with bathers. At the first breeze of evening these came 
from the waters and prepared for the night's festivities. 
At that hour we saw the Mussulmans prostrate on their 
rugs, the Christians telling their beads, the Jews with 
little black cubes tied to their brows, the pagans making 
their off crings at little fires. Tartars, Armenians, Cir- 
cassians, all forgot their centuries of hate, and lived and 
prayed each to his own gods in amity together, during 
those summer months by our pools. 

After the evening prayer all gave themselves care- 
lessly to life and its joys. Music and song rose like an 



incense from the clustered tents : here a flute, monoton- 
ous and full of longing, wailed to the stars the yearning 
of the East for the Infinite ; there a savage drum gave 
sound to the rhythm of the Universe ; near-by a nasal 
voice mourned the losing all human joys in death, and 
far out on the plain a shepherd with a reed glorified the 
rising sun and the song of birds. Other shepherds in a 
group sang naive happy verses, while the Arab and the 
Persian drew from their breasts in melancholy melody 
their unutterable longings for happiness. All these 
voices rising above the dark tree-tops floated up the 
immense heights of the mountains, where an echo hid- 
den in the rocks softly repeated the songs to please 
the jackals and hyenas that watched from the preci- 

It was then that all Asia lay at our feet beneath the 
stars, Asia, with its profound melancholy, its languor, 
its mysticism, its vague desire for death and its ardent 
love of life. To my heart of a child these voices brought 
a sense of beauty and of pain, and the mystery of exist- 
ence seemed to penetrate like a mist the red veils and 
the silken folds that wrapped my small body. I melted, 
I dissolved into the stars and the night, while my feet, 
accompanied by the clinking of the anklets I had put 
on at play, led me as though in enchantment toward a 
white figure that danced near the pools. 

It was the beautiful daughter of a household near our 
own. Only a few weeks ago she had been married to a 
young sculptor of amber, and never had our village seen 
a festivity so glorious as her wedding. Her father, in 
honour of his only child, had spread for all comers a 
feast that surpassed all feasts in richness and plenty. 
Flocks of sheep had been slaughtered ; mountains of rice 



perfumed with saffron were heaped in multitudes of 
gold and silver dishes ; sweetmeats of all kinds, dates, figs, 
and piles of honeycomb were offered to all. In the 
midst of the garden, upon a raised platform, the young 
husband sat cross-legged like a sultan on his throne, two 
scarves crossed on his breast, and his feet resting on rugs 
surrounded by innumerable trays of food, platters of 
fruit and amphorae of wine. Our peasants, between 
eating and drinking, danced to the music of horns blown 
by our mountaineers, while on the white balcony of the 
house women in many-coloured veils surrounded the 
young wife who listened silently to the nuptial chants. 
All this was too beautiful, too splendid, not to arouse 
envy in the hearts of the wicked. By their curses and 
their enchantments the young wife had fallen into the 
power of the demons. 

Hardly had she been married when she felt herself 
suffocating. Fever came into her garden and blew its 
hot breath upon her. Charms could not keep it away. 
Then she coughed ; there was blood on her lips, and she 
felt herself menaced by death. My father declared to 
her people that she was consumptive and needed only 
rest, good food and much sunshine, but our village 
always doubted those who knew the meaning of written 
words, since those who could read and write on talis- 
mans often brought evil. Therefore no one listened to 
my father, but a famous wise woman was brought to 
give her advice. 

" It is the work of evil spirits," she said. " Demons 
exhaust her in this manner. You have called me too 
late. Only one thing may perhaps save her. She must 
dance without stopping for three days and nights. 
Made uneasy by her ceaseless movements and by the 

u.s. 31 c 


shrill sound of the flutes the evil spirits may perhaps 
abandon her." 

So the sick girl was brought to the miraculous pools 
and bathed. Then, dressed in the bridal garments that 
had brought upon her the jealousy of the wicked, decked 
in her jewels, apart from the crowds, she danced, upheld 
by her mother and grandmother. 

She danced, slim and ghostly before the dark rocks, 
beside the deserted pools. Sometimes her movements 
were slow ; they expressed sorrow and her longing to 
stay by the side of her dear husband. Sometimes they 
were fast and furious ; her whirling arms and struggling 
body protested against Death that would take her from 
all she loved — her gardens, the sunshine, and the songs of 
her birds. Then her gestures, slow and yielding like 
those of a tired child, offered to God her resignation to 
His mysterious wish. When, half-fainting, she lifted up 
her beautiful feverish eyes towards the dark and indif- 
ferent Heaven, I could not doubt that, softened by the 
efforts of this dying creature, Heaven would abandon 
its indifference and give her the little thing she asked — 
only a few years more in the radiance of the sun. 

But Heaven did not relent. Even while I watched, 
on the third night of her dancing suddenly blood flowed 
black on her white veils, she shuddered, her tired arms 
fell, and she hung motionless in the arms of her mother. 
Only the shrill flutes, played by the squatting musicians 
in the shadows, went on for a moment before they, too, 

She was dead, and dressed in a shroud she lay stretched 
out on rugs in her house, surrounded by the hired 
weepers kneeling in their blue garments of mourning. 
Murmuring the old litanies of sorrow, they rhythmically 



struck their withered knees with their violet hands, 
bending and swaying in the dance of grief. Then she 
was buried ; she was spoken of a little and heard of no 
more. Only I, for a long time, searched among the 
women possessed by demons in the hope of finding 
among them another girl as sweet and beautiful as she. 

Always after that time, those who suffered from mys- 
terious ills drew me toward them while they sought 
relief or forgetfulness in the dance. Most mysterious of 
them all, to me, were the chamanns, dervishes of the 
Mongols, who came to us from some far-away steppe. 
From time to time they would dance their strange 
dance of epilepsy through which they reached the peace 
that is nirvana. Their dance, more violent, more fan- 
atic, and more exalted even than those of the possessed 
women, filled my heart with fascinated horror. Fol- 
lowed by our old Nani, I hastened always toward the 
sound of their savage drums and their shrill cries, and 
stood trembling like a bird before a snake. 

Having whirled for a long time to the wild and savage 
cadences of the drums, they ceased to breathe. Only 
occasionally and very heavily their chests sobbed, while 
the dance became more frenzied, their hands struck 
their breasts, and their eyes became immensely enlarged. 
Then one by one they fell as though in a drunken 
lethargy. Piously they were covered with cloths and 
left lying hours upon hours, lost in that nirvana of 
absolute not-being for which they had longed as men in 
the desert long for water. 

Nirvana. Nothingness. The eternal desire of man- 
kind. Too young to know the bewilderment and soul- 
sickness of watching the ceaselessly changing appear- 
ances, the innumerable veils of illusion that surround us, 



I did not understand the thirst for oblivion that tor- 
mented these dancers. But I felt their agony of weari- 
ness that drove them to such efforts, and my mind 
struggled to comprehend the mysterious sorrows and 
joys that moved beyond their gloomy or delirious eyes. 

My uncle, the priest Ter-Barsegh, patriarch of the 
village of Zergueran, loved to sit through the summer 
evenings on the balcony of his house with his people 
gathered around him. The village was going to sleep, 
the winds were still, and the noisy waters of the Arat, 
for ever at war with the rocks in its path below, spoke to 
us of the joys of peace. While the large stars came out 
above the mountains, and music rose from the tents at 
the foot of the cliffs, my uncle began those tales that 
often until midnight held us breathless. He was a well 
of those old legends that for centuries have been handed 
about among the people of the Caucasus, and none could 
tell them as he could. 

At this hour the labourers had put the buffaloes into 
their dark stables, and the shepherds had fastened in the 
fold their goats and their lambs. The women, coming 
home from the fountain, had placed the brimming jaj 
in its niche, had served the simple meal of cheese, fruits 
and wild honey, and had laid the children to sleep on 
rugs. Their day's work done, they prepared to visit 
my uncle, that they might hear his marvellous tales. 
Over their coarse blue blouses the men put on coats of 
thick black satin striped with gold, and they replaced 
their cotton turbans by heavy fur bonnets, that .they 
might appear in dignified garb before their venerable 
priest, and in favourable aspect before the eyes of the 
women. Meanwhile the women added to their ordinary 



dress of rainbow-coloured skirt and wide-sleeved blouse 
their velvet jackets of many colours striped with gold, 
and clasped about their waists girdles of carved silver. 
Carefully swathed in many veils of red, they followed 
the men up the steep path that led to my uncle's bal- 
cony, and sat in decorous order upon the straw matting 
that covered its floor of earth. Beneath them, in the 
stable that, like the upper stories of the house, was half- 
carved in the steep slope and half- walled with rock, my 
uncle's buffaloes and his sheep were munching the last 
of their straw and settling themselves to sleep. 

The house of our Uncle Ter-Barsegh was above ours, 
on the cliff that walled our fruit gardens and not far 
from our waterfall that fell from the rocks on its way to 
join the Arat. Since it was not outside our own gardens 
we could go there whenever we liked, even without old 
Nani, and often after supper we climbed the narrow 
trail to join the peasants on that pleasant balcony. 

While waiting for the stories to begin the men lighted 
their pipes and smoked gravely, looking out upon the 
gorges and the cliffs that imprison the rebellious Arat. 
Against the sky stood Odzissar, the mysterious moun- 
tain that none dared approach. On its topmost peak, in 
an onyx throne surrounded by multitudes of venomous 
serpents, sat the Queen of all the reptiles in the world. 
In her mouth she held a diamond which, one night in 
every year, she spat into the air. At that moment, we 
were told, the darkness around the earth was lighted by 
its Hashing. Only certain of the initiate and powerful, 
the sorcerers and kings, could behold that light. 

A torch of resinous pine, fastened to the stone wall of 
my uncle's house, kept the shadows at bay. They 
lurked among the twisted trunks of the aged trees that 



enclosed the balcony. From the branches of the trees 
came a low sound, as though the night were breathing 
all around us. But in the strong light of the torch, 
which could resist the most furious wind, the mountain 
people in their brilliant colours resembled a flower 
garden. There was nothing to fear while we were near 
my uncle, who sat in our midst upon an embroidered 
cushion, his eyes benevolent and his long beard like a 
drift of snow upon his breast. 

The evening began always with a solemn recitation of 
the Shasaka, the Rosary of Jewels. This was a litany 
invoking under names of magnificence and splendour 
God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, 
their archangels and their angels. To this my uncle 
added an invocation addressed to Satan, Prince of the 
Shadows and Master of the Abysses. 

My uncle ended his incantation. He smoked his pipe 
for a long time in a profound silence. We were aware 
of the night, and of the deepening coolness of the moun- 
tain air. Djavahir, the bowed old wife of Uncle Ter- 
Barsegh, the one-eyed, bitter woman, stealthily brought 
from the house a glowing brazier. Its light upon her 
withered face was like that of a sorcerer's furnace. I 
could never realize that this hideous person had been 
the most beautiful of the village women fifty years 
before ; but it must have been so, for legend said that 
the sun itself had hidden its face behind the clouds in 
jealousy whenever she came out on Sundays in her 
garments embroidered with silver and gold. 

Then my uncle began his tale. What treasures he 
had stored in that venerable head, behind those eyes 
that had watched a hundred and one years pass over our 
mountains ! Things seen and heard, old myths, legends 



and traditions, all gathered into a Christian faith that 
embraced all religions, a faith in which all roads, even 
the most shadowy, led to Paradise. His voice revived 
for us the chimeras of old times, peopled the night with 
four-headed dragons, with flying horses from whose 
nostrils came smoke, with witches' revels and the cruel 
love-making of demons. 

" Our village," began my uncle, " was formerly only 
a few huts perched here upon the precipice. There 
lived in it hunters and men who were skilful in robbing 
the wild bees of their honey, which abounded in all the 
forests. In one of the huts lived a young hunter. He 
was tall and strong, but he lived alone ; he had no wife. 

" One day he went into the forests to kill deer. He 
went far, and it was late when he saw a buck with great 
horns, that saw him and fled. He followed it, hot with 
the chase, and did not heed where he went. But night 
was upon him, the buck vanished among the trunks of 
trees, and the young hunter saw that he was in the 
strange forest of Odzissar. He stood and gazed, and he 
saw beside the trail a beautiful young girl who wept. 
Her long hair covered her arms and knees, and he could 
not see her face. 

" * What can I do to comfort thee, beautiful one ? ' 
he asked. She did not reply, but continued to weep. 
1 Tell me thy sorrow,' said the hunter with tenderness, 
and came close to her. She was silent. He drew aside 
her hair and stood without breath, marvelling at a 
beauty of which he had never seen the equal. Two 
eyes, clear and deep, sent a glance to the roots of his soul 
and kindled there one of the loves that do not cease 
burning till death extinguishes them. ' Tell me,' lie 
murmured, ' why dost thou weep ? ' 



" c I was asleep,' said the girl, ' until thy coming 
wakened me. I saw thee, and my soul left me and 
clung to thy feet, never to be separated from thee. I 
am not thy wife, therefore I weep.' 

" There were no words in the mouth of the young 
hunter. He lifted the girl and held her to his heart. 
Then drunken with j oy he returned to the village. The 
mountaineers celebrated their wedding with music of 
pipes and flutes, and left them happy in his cabin. 

" Then day and night were sweet as honey to the 
young hunter. Singing strange songs, his wife walked 
about his house ; she spread the cushions upon the floor 
and made beautiful for him the platters of fruit and of 
rice. He hunted through all the mountains and sold 
to wandering foreigners the skins of deer and the horns 
of stags, in order to buy for her bangles of gold and 
bracelets and collars set with amber and coral, which 
sang together when she danced for him. 

" One morning, hardly yet awakened, the young hun- 
ter was perfuming with sandalwood the heavy tresses 
her beloved head, when a knock was heard at the door. 
The young wife ran laughing to open it. An old fakir 
stood on the threshold. The skin of a lion hung from 
his naked shoulders, another was about his loins. He 
leaned on a staff, and on his hand was a great ring of 
onyx. He asked for shelter. 

" ' Enter, old man, in the name of God and all the 
Prophets," said the hunter, and he commanded his wife 
to bring the best of their food for the venerable guest. 
She set before them goats' milk, wild honey and grapes, 
and she went into the garden to gather fresh figs. 
The old man sat, and he and the young hunter ate 



" ' You have great courage, O my son,' said the old 
fakir. ' I wear the skin of a lion, but you have his heart 
in your breast. Only one with more than human 
courage could marry a serpent and live with her in 

" ' What dost thou say ? ' cried the young husband. 
He rose, enraged, to drive the old man from the hut. 
' Thou art no true fakir, but an evil man with lies upon 
thy tongue ! ' 

" ' Wait, my son,' said the fakir, and smiled. He held 
out his hand, on which the onyx ring was like a pool 
of milky water. ' Behold this onyx. It will become 
black in the presence of a serpent who wears the form 
of a woman.' 

" At this moment the young wife came in from the 
garden, bearing a dish of copper filled with purple figs, 
and looking meekly on the earth. The young hunter 
saw the ring become black. 

" ' O cursed old man ! ' he cried, when the young 
woman was gone. ' Give me proof that thou art not a 
messenger from the depths below, or thou wilt not go 
out from here alive.' 

" ' I will do so,' said the fakir, who had not ceased to 
smile. And he told the young man to put into the food 
of his wife a great quantity of salt, to empty the water- 
jar, and to fasten the door and window that night. ' Lie 
down and pretend to sleep, and thou shalt see what 
thou shalt see.' 

" As he had said, so the young man did. At midnight 
the young wife awoke. She rose and went to the water- 
jar and found it dry. She went to the door, and it was 
locked. She sighed. She pulled at the bars of the 
window, but they did not yield. She moaned, and 



walked to and fro. Then she stopped above her hus- 
band and looked at him attentively. 

" As he appeared to be quietly sleeping she became 
calm. She went to the chimney, rested her beautiful 
bare arms against the wall, and again looked at him. 
Then she put her head into the fire-place, and the blood 
of the young hunter became snow-water as he beheld 
the most hideous of abominations. He saw the slender, 
graceful neck of his wife change into the body of a ser- 
pent, stretch out longer and longer. Entering the 
chimney and passing over the roof, it balanced in the 
air outside the window its foul head of a viper, opened 
eagerly its mouth in which whistled a double-pronged 
tongue, and stretched to the borders of the Arat. 
Seeing the water before her, she bent downward her 
horrible head and for a long time remained, pressing her 
serpent's mouth to the river. The stream dwindled 
and grew weak, its noise was stilled. The Arat was dry 
when her thirst was quenched, and she lifted the long 
undulating neck. It rose inthe air, and became shorter. 
The head again passed the window, it came down the 
chimney, and appeared once more as the beautiful head 
of a woman on the woman's body that waited for it. 
The young wife wiped her crimson lips, wet from the 
river, and trembling came toward her husband. See- 
ing him still as though asleep, she smiled, and 
stretching herself beside him laid her arms about his 
neck and slept. But the husband, neither sleep- 
ing nor waking, remained rigid in the embrace of 

" At dawn he went to the fakir and begged to be told 
how to get rid of this monster that was his wife. ' There 
is only one way,' said the fakir. ' She must be burnt 



alive.' And lie told the young man how this should be 

" Accordingly, that day when the young wife leaned 
above the furnace where she was preparing to bake 
bread, her husband suddenly pushed her into the living 
coals and rolled a great rock upon the opening. 

" ' Why dost thou burn me, O my beloved ? ' cried 
his wife's voice. ' What harm have I ever done thee ? 
Were we not happy ? Woman or serpent, did I not 
love thee more than the light of my eyes ? Was I not 
sweet to thy lips and a joy to thy heart ? O my 
beloved ! O my beloved ! We were so happy ! ' The 
voice became a groan and a sigh, and the young hunter 
heard no more. 

" Then sorrow took hold of him, and he remembered 
the beauty and the clear laughter of his wife. He 
remembered the care she had for his comfort, he remem- 
bered her smiles and the soft arms in which he had slept, 
and the mouth, red and fresh as a flower, that wakened 
him with kisses in the dawn. He tore his garments and 
flung himself on the ground. 

" ' O fakir, cursed among men ! Why didst thou bring 
me knowledge that killed my happiness ? Why didst 
thou make me see, when I was blinded with joy ? Curses 
on the light that shows me grief ! Curses on the truth 
that is bitter, when lies were sweet ! O sorrowful God 
Who knowest all things, why couldst Thou not leave 
me happy in my little ignorance ? ' 

" He tore the stone from the furnace. There was 
naught but ashes and one small coal that still burned 
like a closing eye. He placed it upon his two eyeballs and 
put out the light that showed him the world. Then, 
blinded, he gathered up his garments and set out to 

4 1 


look for death. No man has seen him since that day. 

" As for the fakir, he gathered carefully the ashes of 
the burned body, and as by rubbing them he was able 
to change into gold the meanest of metals, he soon 
became the richest and most respected man in all the 
Orient. But it is said he was never happy, because to 
the day of his death he was tormented by a thirst that 
was never quenched, and in his ears when he died was 
the hissing of many serpents." 

On my uncle's balcony a sound like that of a forest 
in a light wind came from the crowd. My uncle 
emptied his pipe and thrust it back among the folds of 
his girdle, then he turned his eyes toward the mountain 
Odzissar that rose shadowy against the dark sky like the 
bonnet of a fakir. Always when he had finished his tale 
he told us what the weather would be next day. To- 
night he said, " Morning will bring us a tempest from 
the inferno. I hear the whistling of the serpents' 

The summer ended, the rose-petals fell, and in their 
place appeared the red rose-berries. We should have 
gone to our winter home in Shamahka, but the death of 
our Katarine, which we awaited, held us in the country. 
A strange serenity filled our lives, our voices were low, 
our movements gentle. One would have said that the 
moon was broken, to fill us with its light. 

The last moment came. Kneeling around the low 
couch we awaited in reverent silence, as for the touch 
of a sacrament, the instant when her pure soul, flutter- 
ing like the flame of an expiring candle, should mysteri- 
ously depart. Already she had been given the bath of 
the dead ; she lay wrapped in her shrouds, and from 



time to time we lifted and piously kissed their hems. 
By what heedlessness of destiny had she come into the 
world, our little martyr with the sad smile which 
remained unchanged even when death had gently 
closed her uncomplaining lips ? 

All through the night we watched beside her, recall- 
ing her last words and all her last gestures, which seemed 
to us filled with mystic meanings. 

At dawn all the village was in our garden and in the 
court, where the men were solemnly seated upon car- 
pets. Through the open doors of the house poured the 
lamentations of the hired mourners who knelt around 
the couch of the dead. Impassive and white, in the 
midst of their hypocritical blue mourning garments, she 
seemed carved of marble. 

Soon, all together, we accompanied her to the church. 
Two of our brothers carried the litter on which she lay, 
covered with a white cloth. Behind it walked my 
uncle, the priest Ter-Barsegh. In order to shorten the 
tedium of the long Mass he had begun it, as was his 
custom, while putting on his funeral robes ; he con- 
tinued it while on the way, and finished it on entering 
the church. 

It was ended. We should never see her any more. 
And the thought that this very night the jackals and the 
blood-suckers of Tcrjan-Bagh would come to disturb 
the light earth above her and to appease their bloody 
thirst upon this poor little body, stopped the flow of 
life in my veins. My mother in her violet mourning 
veils fell upon the body, fiercely holding it to her breast. 
Unconscious, she was drawn away. 

And when she returned to her sorrow, outside, in 
the sunshine, all around us life had already resumed 



its alluring carelessness. The preparations for the 
funeral fete, more lavish than those for a wedding, 
engrossed a hundred old women. The young were 
laughing and chattering of everyday affairs, the half- 
naked children leaped and tumbled around the braziers, 
attracted by the curious odours of the funeral meats 
perfumed with herbs gathered from the cemetery. 

Only our anguished hearts cried out for Katarine, 
the little motionless prayer that had gone from us to 

Christmas found us still at Zergueran, on that 
holiest of all the days on which the Christians of the 
village assembled to listen to the words of my uncle. 

My uncle, the priest Ter-Barsegh, was not one of the 
great dignitaries of the Church who wear the tiara 
sparkling with sapphires and the scarf embroidered 
with pearls, but he was nevertheless greatly revered 
by all the villagers of Zergueran. Tall, majestic, his 
long hair whitened by the winters of more than a 
hundred years, he might have been taken for the patri- 
arch Noah himself when in the evening he stood on 
the terrace watching the sunset walk with golden feet 
on the heights above the gorges. His eyes were calm 
and his hands were folded beneath the long white beard 
that swayed against his robe with the gentle motion of 
a willow bough. 

He knew neither Latin nor Greek, but he was a wise 
man and a scholar. He had only one book, the Bible, 
which for thirty years had lain unopened, gnawed by 
the rats in his little half-ruined chapel ; but he knew 
by heart all the Book of Job, the Songs of Songs, and 
the Apocalypse. To these he added visions of his 



own, worthy of the most saintly hermits of Biblical 
times. Although, with the passage of years, he had 
forgotten even the alphabet, this slight lack did not in 
any way lessen either his wisdom or his great knowledge. 

He was not only a scholar but a saint, whom God 
had greatly blessed. Father of eighteen sons, each of 
whom had begotten at least as many, his horn was 
indeed a horn of plenty. 

No corner of the universe more needed the refresh- 
ment of the holy teaching than our beautiful Zergueran, 
trampled over now by the children of Islam, now by 
the followers of the great Buddha. Among so many 
faiths the Christians of Zergueran would surely have 
been lost without their shepherd, the priest Ter- 
Barsegh, who taught them the Truth of Truths, 
and at each village festival they listened gladly to the 
splendour of his words, which showed them the gates 
of the eternal Eden and the abysses of hell. 

The most solemn of these festivals was that of 
Christmas. At that time the good Christian was 
blessed and pardoned for all the past year ; at that 
time he was allowed to kiss reverently the right hand 
of my uncle, which was called " The Holy Hand." 

While the edges of the lofty rocks were still golden 
and the first star shone in the pale sky of that evening, 
we saw the faithful slowly climbing the path that led 
to my uncle's stable. Against the steep slope the low 
stone walls looked like part of the mountain itself ; 
the arched doorway, dimly lighted from within by 
torches, seemed the mouth of a cave, and into it, one 
by one, passed tall men in bonnets of fur, women 
covered with red veils and holding their nurslings to 
their breasts, little girls whose eyes shone through 



veils of green and blue. They entered the low, dim 
place, where the breath of the cows and the odour of 
dung and straw mingled so well with the smoke of 
torches and the perfume of sandalwood that one could 
believe himself among the groves of the cherubim. 

On that evening my uncle combed his hair and his 
beard and put on his new vestment. Then for a time 
he walked alone on his balcony, while in the stable 
beneath his feet the Christians of the village assembled. 
When all was ready he descended, and appeared 
before the eyes that looked upon him reverently. 

He knew everything, my uncle ; he knew the begin- 
ning of the world and its end, how and where Paradise 
had been built, and what were the colours of hell, full 
of demons with tails three yards long and tongues that 
hung to the earth. He knew what made the earth- 
quakes that so often shattered our cliffs. He could 
point out — and never make a mistake — the witches and 
magic-workers who brought down upon us the pests 
that devoured the flocks and the cholera that desolated 
homes. Although he himself was not a sorcerer, he 
knew how to cast and to take off spells. And with 
what generosity he distributed talismans ! How many 
holy formulae he knew, to bring us rain during the dry 
months or to guard against tempests on vintage days ! 
So highly was he regarded in Heaven that when, 
even by chance, he pronounced the name of Saint 
Karapet or Saint Kirakos, a soul that had been lost 
among the wandering dead passed rejoicing from the 
cursed fields to the joys of Paradise. 

" On this day of Christmas, day of the birth of the 
son of God, God's son created our father Adam," 
began my uncle. " By the grace of God — may the 

4 6 


songs of cherubim delight both His ears for ever ! — 
we have come again to this anniversary of the birth 
of His Son. In order that He might be born, die 
and come to life again each year, like the flowers and 
fruit-trees, God made Him of a different substance 
than ours. Such was the will of the Almighty." 

My uncle made the sign of the cross, which was 
repeated by all the assembly. 

" In the beginning," continued my uncle, " there 
were only immense gardens of golden trees under 
which, lying at ease on the grass, the Almighty listened 
to the songs of cherubim. But because there was no 
envious eye to behold — and by beholding, to increase 
— His happiness, the idea came to Him to create Satan, 
to give him wings and power and to reveal to him the 
mystery of birth and death." 

Consternation passed through the listeners like a wind 
through grass. The name of Satan had been pro- 
nounced ! Without doubt the Evil One had entered, 
invisible, and remained there watchful lest he be too 
much calumniated. 

But there was nothing to fear. Each time he spoke 
the dreadful name my uncle bowed respectfully. 
Satan, being the creation of God, might one day be 
pardoned and restored to his place near the Throne ; 
it was therefore wise to fear and propitiate him. 

My uncle spoke in quite a different manner of the 
little demons, the djinns. They were creations of 
Satan, and moreover these turbulent active little 
beings were only apprentices to the Prince of the 
Abysses. My uncle treated them as befitted their 
rank, and sometimes even went so far as to abuse them. 

" But Satan, not content weakly to envy and to 

d.s. 47 d 


admire God, set out to create for himself a kingdom 
of his own. Beholding the multitudes of djinns which 
Satan loosed upon the earth, God repented His deed, 
and summoned to Him the Angel Gabriel. 

" ' Gabriel,' said He, ' what can be done against 
the mischief-making of My latest creation ? ' 

" * My Father,' replied the Angel Gabriel, ' the 
mistake has been made. Complaining will not wipe 
out an error. It must be righted. It is clear that 
Thou hast not time, Thyself, to attend to the welfare 
of both Thy Heaven and Thy earth. Therefore 
create for the pleasure of Thine eyes a Son Who will 
govern the earth, leaving to Thee only the care of 
Heaven. And tell Thy Son to create men to serve Him. 
Let there be as many of these as Satan has big and little 
djinns, and let Thy Son and His creatures contend with 
Satan and his djinns.' 

" ' Gabriel,' replied God, ' in this matter thou art 
wiser than I. It shall be as thou hast said.' 

" Thereupon He created out of the clouds the 
Virgin Mary and set her upon earth. Then He 
descended unto her in the shape of a dove and she 
conceived a son whom she brought forth in the twink- 
ling of an eye. 

" At once the Son of God created from the dust 
Adam, our ancestor. Adam arose, and taking from his 
side a rib he held it out toward God the Son, saying, 
' I want a woman. Create for me a woman.' And 
God the Son took the rib, stirred up with it the dust 
beneath the feet of Adam, spat upon it, and behold ! 
there was Eve, our sinning mother, who caused all 
misfortune to fall upon our heads. 

" There was no virtue in her. By reason of gluttony, 



curiosity and disobedience, she, our mother Eve, 
received Satan the enemy in her garden, listened to 
his words, and ate of the apple which he gave her. 
Then in His anger God the Father cursed her and her 
children with bitter curses, so that the anger of God 
has never departed from us. 

" Cursed be the woman ! " cried my uncle. " Cause 
of our perdition, bringer of woe, calamity of calamities, 
curses upon her ! " His voice became as terrible as 
that of the prophet Job. " Root of all our sins ! 
Abyss of evil ! Tomb of virtue ! Cursed she is and 
shall be ! " His thundering words fell on the bowed 
heads of the trembling women and bent them to the 

Slowly his holy anger passed, and he continued his 

" Then God the Son, having seen His Father's plan 
spoiled by the sin of Eve the wicked, and beholding the 
enemy, Satan, lay hold of the human race which in 
the space of a single day had covered the earth, 
became stricken with woe and tore His garments and 
covered His head with ashes. Then alone He went 
toward these followers of Satan, who took Him and 
crucified Him. 

" Seeing Him on the cross His Father was afflicted 
and cried out, saying, ' Why dost Thou cause Thyself to 
be crucified, My well-beloved Son ? ' 

" And God the Son answered him, saying, ' This I do 
for the human race which I have created. Forgive 
them as Thou lovest Me.' 

" ' The human race, which entered into alliance with 
Satan ? ' replied God the Father, marvelling greatly. 

" ' They are the work of My hands. Forgive them 



for love of Me,' said God the Son, and God the Father 
said, ' So let it be.' 

" Thereupon, although disgusted with the human 
race, God pardoned us. And that is why, in spite of 
all our actions, which stink with the odour of demons, 
we shall be pardoned by God and placed high in His 

Here my uncle grew even taller, and stretching out 
his right hand above the bowed heads he said solemnly, 
" On this day of the birth of our Creator, Saviour and 
Master, on this day of the birth of humanity, I bless you 
and pardon you in accordance with the will of God." 

All crossed themselves, hurried forward to kiss the 
Holy Hand of my uncle, and went their way cleansed of 

As for me, I remained rooted to my place, dazzled. 
For me no Bible story surpassed in marvels this one of 
my uncle, whose wisdom was greater even than that of 
the Saints Matevos and Tatevos. 


Armenia : Shamabka 

WE had returned to our winter residence at 
Shamahka, formerly an Armenian city, later a 
principality of Tartarian Khans, independent and 
sumptuous until its capture by the Cossacks of Russia. 

Black caverns like the eyes of monsters deep-set in 
the rocks silently told the terrible stories of the 
prisons of the Middle Ages. Here and there were 
traces of old castles that had disappeared ; turrets 
with their teeth decayed, walls worn away. All this 
was smothered in gardens, buried in masses of roses 
and vine ; only the song of the poplars remembered 
the passing of old happy days. Only their murmur- 
ing, and the ceaseless, liquid voice of the clear streams 
in empty streets between high white walls, recalled 
the glories of King Dandouk and the Queen of Sha- 
mahka, and the beauty of houris incarnated in the 
sweet bodies of dancers, who had descended from 
Paradise itself for love of the Khans. 

Now, like an old beggar sitting beside the highway, 
Shamahka dreamed of the long-gone days when, 
young, beautiful and adored, decked, in all the 
jewelled glory of old Armenia, she had been the 
laughing queen of the world's romance. Long cara- 
vans of camels had come from the homes of all the 
winds, bringing the spices of Arabia, the golden orna- 
ments and singing lutes of Babylon, the carved ivories 
and jades and painted tea-chests of China, the 
emeralds and elephants' tusks of India, to lay them 



at the feet of the Queen of Shamahka, whose beauty- 
surpassed them all. 

She was so beautiful, that ancient queen, that 
legend itself was dumb, unable to find words worthy 
of her hair, her eyes, her little feet. When she walked 
on her terraces the sun became pale before her, as 
the stars before the moon. The perfume of her 
graciousness was sweeter than that of all the flowers 
in the world's gardens. Her very name awakened in 
the hearts of men a love that devoured them in its 
flame as moths are devoured in the lesser fire of 
torches. Her courtiers could not look even upon her 
floating veils, lest they be blinded. And this great 
beauty troubled the wise men of her kingdom, for in 
all her lands and in all the neighbouring kingdoms 
there was no man worthy to become her husband. 

And the queen wept, for her heart was the heart of 
a woman, though her beauty was that of the angels 
of Paradise, and there was no one in all the known 
world to whom she could give the treasures of her 
love. The hate of a woman scorned is more terrible 
than the hate of all the demons, but the anguish of 
a woman who cannot love is greater than the anguish 
of all their victims. 

While the queen wept, alone in her gardens — and all 
her tears became pearls — in unknown lands beyond the 
sea King Dandouk, on a throne of ivory and gold, 
leaned his chin on his hand and was sad. Before him 
the most beautiful dancing girls unveiled themselves in 
voluptuous dances, their gestures scattering like drops 
of dew the sweetest music of thars and tambourines. 
His little negro slaves tumbled on the marble pave- 
ments ; serpent charmers made toys of deadly snakes ; 



magicians wove powerful spells. All in vain ; the 
heart of King Dandouk was ice in his breast ; he sighed 
for something and could not say what it was. But 
while he walked alone in his garden at twilight, he 
heard outside his walls a wandering singer singing of the 
Queen of Shamahka ; he heard her name. His heart 
of ice was melted by the sound of those syllables. King 
Dandouk loved. 

Before the sun shone again on his court, heralds had 
summoned all his warriors, his huge war-elephants, his 
musicians and magicians and readers of the stars. In 
the morning he set out to make war on Shamahka. He 
came with ten thousand elephants armoured in silver 
and gold, ten thousand horsemen armed with spears, 
and ten thousand camels bearing food and water for his 
armies. He came across the deserts toward Shamahka, 
and before him rode seven powerful magicians, who 
scattered on every wind a perfumed drug that went 
before them like mist. 

Everything that breathed that perfume slept. The 
roses closed their petals, the birds hid their heads 
beneath their wings, the fountains dwindled and were 
still. In the bazaars of Shamahka the camels knelt, the 
buffaloes lay down in their harness, buyer and sellers 
ceased their bargaining and lay asleep among their 
goods. In the palace of Shamahka the queen slept on 
her throne, while all her courtiers, unable to resist the 
spell, lay dreaming in their robes, like bales of brocades 
at her feet. 

So King Dandouk rode into the city of Shamahka, by 
the soldiers that slept at the open gates, and through 
the silent bazaars, and up through the palace gardens to 
the steps of the great audience hall. He entered, and 



looked at the sleeping queen. Through her veils he 
saw the crescent moons of her eyebrows, and for a long 
time he remained motionless, under the spell of his 
great love. But at last he came up the steps of the 
throne, and kneeling at the feet of the queen he touched 
with his lips the hem of her robe. 

The queen awoke, she lifted her lids and looked at 
him. In that moment their two souls were united, 
never again to part until the sun grew cold. 

It was thus that King Dandouk married the Queen 
of Shamahka, and they lived together in her city, since 
not all the kingdoms of the world could tempt her from 
it, and for her sake King Dandouk renounced his throne 
beyond the seas. And Shamahka rejoiced in the light 
of those twin suns, while in their palace the two eternal 
lovers lived in Paradise, which they had reached with- 
out passing through the gates of death. For them the 
houris descended, and the peris danced in robes of more 
than earthly beauty. 

Glorious in all Asia Minor, these little dancers 
wandered from city to city, kindling all hearts with the 
fiery music of their silver ornaments. Little goddesses 
with languid eyes in which smouldered the fires of all 
human passions, little bodies trembling, colourful, 
tender and fierce ! They filled the dreams of my 
childhood. In the drowsy silence of our gardens' 
noons, when all but I slept in the shadows, I imitated 
the undulations of their ethereal bodies, the waving of 
their delicate veils. How far I was from imagining 
that one day I, too, Would go wandering in the world as 
one of those dancers of Shamahka ! 

Our large white house, built on a little hill, looked 



over treetops and surrounding walls to Ker-Galassi, 
Mountain of the Virgin. Upon the rock that crowned 
it, cruel and sharp against the sky, once died captive a 
beautiful Armenian virgin, whose sacrilegious love for a 
Mussulman had been discovered by her parents. The 
flame which she had not conquered in her heart had 
for ever destroyed her honour. Yet, rather than deliver 
her to be stoned to death, her parents had chosen 
to punish her themselves, thus washing from their 
name the shame she had brought upon it. They had 
isolated her upon the mountain to die of hunger and 

From the windows of our house, through long hours 
of dreaming, I gazed at that rock. I brooded upon the 
memory of that infatuated virgin, her despairing love, 
her unrealized desires, her suffering through freezing 
nights when the winds tore her hair and veils and the 
fierce cold stars chilled her warm blood meant to glow 
beneath a lover's caresses. Her life and death were my 
one human love-story. 

I resolved that I, too, would love a Mussulman. 
Yes, to avenge her I would love even a bandit of the 
mountains. But I would not love a coward. My man 
would be brave ; he would do a thousand deeds of 
prowess to bring me bracelets and heaps of golden 
ornaments. His name would be glorious ; maidens 
would dream of it ; the bravest would pale at his 
approach. And when our love was discovered, he 
would never leave me alone upon a mountain to die ; 
he would tear down the very mountain to save me ! 

One night a terrible hurricane shook the walls of 
our house. Awakened by the cries of the servants and 
the flashing of torches, I heard the cruel screams of the 



wind, the shrieking of tormented trees, the crash of 
their falling. I felt the floor trembling beneath me, 
and my first thought was for the virgin of Ker-Galassi. 
* O unhappy heart, what did you do alone upon the 
mountain in such a night as this ? Bitterness was more 
cruel than the night. Your unworthy lover was not 
beside you. In the cold, in the wind, alone, you wept 
while your mother and sisters slept on cushions of birds' 
feathers. Why was I not near you ? I would have 
been your sister. More loving than your own people, 
I would have clung to you, comforted you, dried your 
tears with my hair, and if anyone had tried to separate 
us we would have thrown ourselves, together, from the 
same precipice ! ' 

The voice of my mother brought me back to realities. 
She called me to a brazier around which the household 
was huddled. My father read aloud to us from the 
Bible the beautiful story of Christ. 

My mind halted upon Mary Magdalen. I forgot 
the virgin of Ker-Galassi ; my desire for love found 
another marvel upon which to nourish itself. Ah, to be 
Mary of Magdala, a beautiful sinner ! To love a 
Mussulman, a Tartarian Khan, a Sheik-ul-Islam, an 
Ibue of Arabia ! To have underground halls scented 
with Eastern perfumes, gardens filled with birds of 
Paradise, peacocks, canopies embroidered in far-away 
lands by women with slender yellow hands and slanted 
eyes. To be the Magdalen, cursed, calumniated, 
injured by those who hate the beautiful, to be stoned 
one day publicly, and then to see the Christ Himself 
defend me, the Divine Christ Who alone would pardon 
the beautiful their delight in beauty, I, too, would 
have given up everything for that one Being Who 



would have understood, Who would have loved me, the 

" Father, why did not Christ marry her ? " 

My father stopped, thunderstruck. 

" You talk nonsense, my little daughter," he replied 
gravely, and continued his reading. 

The word angered me. Nonsense ? Had he not 
read to us that Mary had abandoned for Him her gar- 
dens and her house in Magdala, that with her beautiful 
hair she had dried His feet after pouring upon them 
perfumes ? She was, then, in love. How could 
Christ, Who loved her already, have been able to resist 
the desire to press her close to His breast, if one sleep- 
less night she had come into His tent to lay her head 
tenderly upon His shoulder and to envelop him with 
her perfumed hair ? She had not the courage to dare, 
that was it. As for me, nothing would have stopped 

My father closed the book, saying that Biblical times 
have passed, and that humanity has lost its grandeur. 
" No one now will crucify himself for an ideal ; each 
thinks of nothing but his own well-being." And he 
told us of the ardent faith of the first Christians in the 
times of Tiberius and of Nero, of the fetes in the 
arenas at Rome, of the beautiful Christian women 
thrown naked into the jaws of panthers, of the mass- 
acres in the catacombs. " We are to-day incapable of 
so much heroism." 

" That is not so, my father. I myself aspire to die 
for some one. In what country arc Christians per- 
secuted now r* " 

" In none, my daughter, because there are no Chris- 
tians. Christ is forgotten in our days." 



" Even at Rome ? " 

"Even at Rome." 

" O father, and I shall never have the happi- 
ness of dying in holy ecstasy before millions of 
Romans ? " 

" Christians are persecuted to-day only in Turkey," 
my mother sighed. " Your grandfather, your grand- 
mother, and your uncles were all massacred there on the 
same day. Your aunts violated and were sold as 

" That was done only to pillage us. Christ counted 
for nothing in those massacres," replied my father in a 
sudden flare of anger. " If Armenia were not the 
richest province in Turkey, these brigands would not 
have thought of allowing us to enrich ourselves in order 
to murder us and seize our wealth." 

But I listened no longer, returning to my own 
thoughts. Ah, no ! To be violated and sold, without 
being in a circus arena beneath the eyes of young war- 
riors longing only to save me — to die as a slave in some 
unnoticed corner of a garden ? No, no, neither for 
Christ nor for God Himself ! 

The days, the evenings and the nights passed mono- 
tonously. In the mornings, stretched upon a carpet in 
the garden, motionless, my eyes closed, my ears lulled 
by the chant of the frogs in the lakes of Hadji-Sayalagh, 
I wandered through imagined gardens of love. From 
time to time I opened my eyes to see that no tarantula 
had crawled upon me, that no reptile was balancing 
itself upon a branch above my head. 

The muezzin chanted the noon-hour. I arose. 

The afternoons were long. I wandered through the 



house, purposelessly. One day I found my brother 
Alikh reposing upon cushions ; the sunshine touched his 
white forehead and his heavy black locks. His eyes 
were large and filled with dreams. I stopped. How 
handsome he was ! He called me, and gently made me 
recline beside him. Hesitating, I stretched myself out 

" How beautiful you are in your white veils," he 
said. " I would marry you, if I were not your 

I blushed. " I regret also that you are my brother. 
I do indeed desire to have a husband as beautiful as you 
are, Alikh." ' 

" Perhaps he will be even more beautiful," he said 
jealously. " And you will learn to love an unknown 
blockhead more than your brother." 

I tried vainly to protest. 

" What will you say to him when he first lifts the 
veils from your face ? How will you embrace him ? " 
he asked, putting his arms about me. 

My heart beat tumultuously. " I do not know, 
Alikh. I shall say nothing. I shall take his head like 
this, I shall press it against my heart, and I shall weep 
with happiness." There were tears in my eyes, and I 
tenderly kissed my brother to hide my emotion. 

" You know that if we had stayed in the religion of 
our ancestors, in the religion of Zoroaster, I would have 
been able to marry you," he said. 

" And only because long ago our fathers left that 
religion, Alikh, now I shall be given to no matter whom, 
to some one old and ugly, but never to you." 

" My sweet sister, we may love each other as fiancees. 
There is no sin in that. Come, lay your head upon my 



shoulder, close your eyes, let us not talk any 

So for hours at a time we rested in each other's arms, 
filled with a vague, sweet emotion. The whole family 
knew that we adored each other, that I went every 
night to kiss him in his bed, and that he never slept 
without receiving that kiss. 

As for me, I fell asleep only with the coming of the 
last stars ; I lay awake thinking that the day was near 
when some young unknown girl would lie beside him, 
and a profound sadness flooded my heart. To com- 
fort me, he promised that he would never marry until I 
was given to another man, although he was twenty 
years old and I scarcely fourteen. 

My brother had gone to join his comrades under the 
olive-trees of the square, to watch the silhouettes of the 
young Armenian girls going to the springs. Veiled, 
they passed along the road with rapid steps, their long 
sleeves falling back to reveal to ardent gazes the bronzed 
graceful arms that supported the amphorae. 

The grave figure of an old man passed them, a heavy 
fur cap on his shaking head, a coat of sheep's wool on his 
bent shoulders. A staff assisted his wavering steps. 
Was it our God of the Hearth, or some reincarnated 
magician of the long ago ? 

The youths rose, and with their hands upon their 
belts bowed gravely, saluting Age in the person of this 
aged man. 

I left the balcony and entered my father's library. 
Four rows of bound books repulsed me by their cold 
gravity. Near them stood tall chests of silver chiselled 
with little sarcophagi which ornamented the corners. 



I opened one. Before me were ancient manuscripts 
written in all the languages of the Orient. The verses 
of great poets, the tales of forgotten minstrels, the 
sublime pages of prophets, lay beneath my fingers. A 
feeling of admiration and regret seized me, admiration 
for my father, who knew how to read these mysterious 
writings ; regret for myself, who could not. 
' Piously I gazed at the parchments, marked with 
cabalistic characters. How could I penetrate the mys- 
tery in these writings of past centuries, in these letters 
traced by forgotten Magi whose very names bowed to 
the earth the people of their times, whose counsels 
directed the fate of kingdoms ? 

I opened another chest filled with Armenian books. 
These were stories by the great Raffi. I looked at one, 
at another. The heroines of those stories resembled 
me so nearly that I felt that I was reading about 
myself. Lost in the contents of that chest, I read until 
evening blotted the pages, now smiling, now weeping 
with emotion. Closing the book, I pitied profoundly 
those ignorant of the happiness given by the poets, and 
morning found me again opening the chest that was 
for me a treasure richer than any Sindbad ever 

It was in that library that I wrote my first letter. 
I have kept it. The paper is worn with age, the ink 
is faded, only the feeling remains unaltered, like a 
precious metal before which time is powerless : 

" To my unknown love, greetings. I do not know 
thee But thou wilt be beautiful and tender, pale 
with love and motionless under my glance. I love 
thee. I await thee. Thou art in the world. But 
where, in what part of the universe ? Perhaps quite 



near, perhaps in the garden divided from mine by one 
thin wall. Thy name ? What is thy name ? I love 
thee ! I love thee ! " 

Our life, apparently so happy, had its shadows. One 
of my five brothers, a veritable Prodigal Son from the 
pages of the Bible, saddened our hearts. He was 
constantly absent, but the whole province spoke of his 
tumultuous life at Dgiguit. At home we avoided pro- 
nouncing his name, so much were we pained by his 
extravagant adventures, which surpassed all imagining. 
However, we all loved him for his beautiful tempestu- 
ous nature and for his proud manners and carriage, 
which made us feel that an ancient bas-relief had taken 
flesh and blood for us. 

It was he, alone of all the children, to whom my 
father had given a European education, following the 
ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whom my father had 
believed equal to Buddha. Tired by his great learn- 
ing, unable any longer to love the little joys of life, my 
father completely shared the disgust which Rousseau 
felt for civilization, the corrupter of Nature. He had 
agreed with Rousseau that we should return to the 
primitive state and allow our instincts to develop freely, 
since what could be purer, more innocent, than the 
naked instincts uncorrupted by thought ? And, 
according to Rousseau, if anyone possessed an evil in- 
stinct punishment was unnecessary, for he would be 
punished directly by the inevitable consequences of his 
evil acts. 

Therefore, since the most natural state for the ideal 
man would be complete freedom, entire liberty for self- 
development, and the society of the unself-conscious 
animals, my brother had been given all of these. In 



order not to influence him with our Asiatic customs, 
my father kept him apart from us in a beautiful 
pavilion surrounded by its own gardens. 

Result : after seventeen years of living, this ardent 
nature, true Caucasian in emotion and violence, became 
a veritable Bashi-bazouk. He was never without his 
weapons : at the slightest rousing of his anger he pur- 
sued us with his dagger ; he flogged the servants for 
the smallest mistakes, and if he were hungry and 
obliged to wait while meals were brought he tore the 
cloth, smashed the porcelains and, leaping upon his 
horse, furiously lashed it out of sight, to be gone for 
days and weeks. 

My father, of a very sweet nature and perfectly 
disciplined as arc all Orientals, never showed his son 
any anger and never punished him, knowing that his 
faults were the disastrous though unexpected results 
of his education. We saw our father, miserable, walk- 
ing to and fro in my mother's room, declaring to her 
in agony that all Europeans are bandits and that this 
Rousseau, whose writings led them to liberty, is their 
chief. My poor mother, ignorant of the death of that 
Frenchman, replied through her tears, " May the sun 
turn cold to this Rousseau, may the washers of corpses 
carry him away, may no grass grow upon his grave ! " 

It was Sunday, the day of enforced idleness. An in- 
tolerable, illimitable boredom weighed upon our souls. 
A day, an eternity, stretched empty before us. We 
faced obligatory visits to our elderly, severe aunts, 
whom my father called " Our Saints,'' and we, " The 
Pyramids." That penitential visit would follow the 
Mass, two hours long, which we must endure standing, 

d.s. 6j e 


our hands crossed on our breasts with an air of piety 
which concealed the agony of our superhuman efforts 
not to yawn. 

Those two hours were my first revelation of eternity. 
In vain we counted to one thousand, in vain we repeated 
to ourselves the fables we knew by heart. The mono- 
tonous plaintive voices of the chanters continued inex- 
orably, endlessly. We gazed at the dear little buzzing 
flies that flung themselves against the coloured window- 
panes ; we watched the stratagems of wicked spiders. 
If we could only save the flies from the spiders, what a 
noble act it would be ! How much greater and purer 
our joy in it than in any Christian effect produced upon 
us by the Mass ! And again we began to count to one 

I admired very much the clear serenity of my father's 
face after those Masses, which left for a long time an 
incense in his spirit. Dear father, he assured us that we 
also wore a nobler air than ordinarily, believing that he 
saw in our bleak faces his own peace. 

But to-day was the fete of the Resurrection, and 
when we reached the church there were no empty 
places. We must remain at the doors, pressed in the 
crowd which gathered behind us. This pleased us, for 
although we were so short that the mass of silken veils 
and robes enclosed us, by tipping back our heads we 
could see the blue sky, and with a little fidgeting we 
captured glimpses of the dim interior of the church. 
The choir was singing the Glory, the mingled voices 
and the scent of incense were streaming into the open 
air, when suddenly we heard a growl of thunder. What 
happiness ! Rain would release us, we would return to 
the house, we would not visit the aunts ! We lifted 



our eyes toward the clouds — there were no clouds ! 
The sky was a pure and limpid blue. Astonished, we 
had piously bowed our heads again, when a strange 
thunder resounded beneath our feet, long and menac- 
ing like the bellowing of ferocious beasts in underground 

A quiver passed through the crowd. Heads turned, 
questioning glances passed from eyes to eyes, and a third 
prolonged growl, accompanied by a gentle shaking of 
the earth, unleashed our terror. It was the coming of 
one of those terrible upheavals of the earth that had 
many times reduced to ruins this city so fertile and 
joyful upon its volcanic hills beneath the happy 

" Hurry away from the walls ! " said my father's 
voice, troubled and stern. We were obeying, the open 
space before the church was a flutter of red veils, the 
clicking of little heels sounded like hail. Suddenly a 
terrible shock threw us to the ground. 

I struggled to sit up. Around us lay uprooted trees, 
quivering as if in death. My eyes turned toward the 
church, and a horrible picture was printed on my eye- 
balls. The beamed basilica was slowly, softly sinking, 
like folds of cloth, upon the kneeling people. The 
exalted priest was leading them in prayer for a miracle. 
And an immense sigh, smothered and horrible, came 
through the open doors as the whole basilica gently 
closed down, and the doorposts fell. Of the great 
church and all that crowd of worshippers, there 
remained only a few columns standing amid ruins. 

From all sides the crash of falling walls smothered the 
shrieking of human beings and animals, while the under- 
ground rumbling of the earth, in convulsions, ran 



through the chaos. Now and then, through the dust, 
we saw the rosy, hypocritical face of the sun ; then, 
after a momentary rest, the earth resumed its agonized 

" Pray ! " my mother was saying, taking our hands. 
" Pray : the Day of Judgment has come ! " And she 
prostrated herself, repeating prayers. My lips, para- 
lysed, capable of no words, remained motionless ; my 
eyes followed the naked bodies of women fleeing from 
the baths, and in the insanity of those moments their 
nakedness and their frantic gestures did not seem 
remarkable. Two of them were coming toward us, 
tottering, when the earth quietly opened beneath their 
feet and swallowed them, like the mouth of a monster. 
I lost consciousness. 

A few hours of nightmare, of delirium. The air 
cleared itself of dust and resumed its azure colour. A 
gentle wind caressed the leaves of a few trees that still 
stood, their broken branches hanging. The sun, 
always indifferent, was disappearing in the distance, 
and the heap of ruins that had been a city still trembled 
from time to time, with the last quiverings of the 
earth's epilepsy. 

No more Shamahka, no more delicious gardens, no 
more houses among the golden vines, no more palaces of 
the Khans. All was destroyed. 

Of our high white house, our walled gardens, our 
arbours, nothing remained but a pile of stones. A 
broken tree laid its branches upon it as upon a grave, 
and from the spot where our gates had been, the water 
of our fountain trickled like colourless blood. 

Upon the road that came from the desert, a few 
camels looked at us kindly through astonished eyes, 



We caressed these poor beasts, friends in our misery. 
In a few hours they would take us from this horrible 
place toward another life by the white and sterile 
borders of the Caspian Sea. 


Armenia : ^aku 

AT the end of the summer we were living on the 
cape of Apcheron, in a large house amid Tartarian 
gardens, sterile squares of sand surrounded by high 
walls. Here a few fig-trees struggled to hold up dusty 
leaves whose strength had been sucked from them by 
the greedy sun. Half-covered with the hot sand, a 
few vine-leaves lay parched and crisp. The vines 
themselves were buried deep in the protecting earth ; 
to reach a bunch of grapes one must dig away a foot 
of sand. The bare stone walls burned the fingers ; the 
glistening sand burned the feet, and the shadows of 
the fig-trees were not cool. There was refuge only in 
the spacious house, behind the balconies protected 
from the sun by mats of straw. At night ladders 
placed against the wall led us to the roof, where we 
slept beneath the stars. 

The Caspian Sea, smooth and shining, reflected a 
yellow sky. Yellow were the houses, yellow were the 
trees. The shores of the sea, covered with salt, lost 
themselves in the flat distance like clouds. Those 
vague white contours, uncertain in the shadows of the 
night, quivering in the heat of noon, expressed an 
indefinable melancholy. 

I remember one morning, clear and limpid as the 
bunch of grapes my mother offered me. The sun 
reflected itself in the water like the golden wing of an 
angel. The fire of the ardent and terrible god filled my 



body, my blood was liquid sunshine, my soul was as 
light and white as the morning. 

" Kiss me, mother," I said to her. " I am so happy ! 
Oh, tell me how I can live for ever, how I can put my 
arms around the whole world and press it to my 
heart ! " 

" Child," she said, and kissed me tenderly. 

My mother was sad, and my father troubled. For 
several days we had known that they were talking 
together long and confidentially. So we were not at 
all surprised when our mother called us all together 
for a serious family council. In a few words my father 
told us that it was the will of God that we should 
completely alter our way of life. In a little while we 
would go to our European house in Baku. Forced to 
live in that Tartar city which had become Russian, 
we must altogether abandon our Asiatic customs and 
in the future we must be pupils in Russian schools. 

That day our mother began packing away our long, 
light, colourful dresses. We must leave them, we 
must leave our gardens of sand and the white shores 
of the Caspian Sea, and the long days of sun-drunken 
idleness. Excited and a little troubled, we discussed 
the mysteries of Russian schools, and tried to imagine 

Our hearts fell when we first saw that city. It 
seemed to us that, still living, we had entered hell. 
The ground, damp and black with oil, the black evil- 
smelling ponds, the monstrous buildings soaked in 
resinous odours, the half-naked men, blackened with 
smoke, who toiled like fiends in the glow of immense 
furnaces, the horrible noise of hammers and the shrill 

6 9 


screaming of whistles, all that makes a city a kingdom 
of convicts, terrified our inmost souls. 

" This is the Black City," said our father. The 
carriage wheels lurched over unpaved streets black with 
oil. With the noise of fiends in the inferno, long 
black trains followed each other endlessly beside the 
carriage windows. The men who tended them were 
grimed by an incessant fine black rain, their naked 
arms were smeared with black, and their ragged gar- 
ments of skins were soaked with black oil. 

The carriage passed through a monstrous forest of 
goblin growths — black structures standing above the 
wells. The earth was black, and black viscid streams 
moved sluggishly across it, emptying into enormous 
black lakes. 

What joy to learn that there was also a White City, 
and that we were to live in it ! 

The wheels rattled over round cobble-stones. We 
were in a street of markets. Under little shelters of 
rugs supported by poles the merchants sat cross-legged 
on low, wooden divans, beside their platters and 
baskets of goods. 

We saw again the green waters of the Caspian Sea, 
and, on the other hand, the grey walls of the ancient 
Tartar Citadel, where for ten centuries only Tartars 
have lived. The hill above it was covered with low 
houses ; a honeycomb of thick white walls. Here 
and there in the little courts, a tree or a rose-bush 
struggled to live. This was the Tartar quarter of Baku. 

At last, a large house, heavy and imposing — ours. 
Here, in the Armenian quarter, the richest part of the 
city, all the houses were tall and grave. Three stories 
high, they lifted their flat roofs above the walls of the 



courts. The tall iron gates opened for our carriage. 
We were in our European house. 

And here, as in a nightmare, our life was transformed 
into a burden. The rooms, large and solemn, were 
filled with hideous shapes of chairs, tables and beds. 
The mirrors, in heavy gilded frames, hung on walls 
bare of tapestries. We sat upright to eat, from a table 
higher than our elbows, covered with a plain, severe 
white cloth. The mornings no longer filled us with 
joy. Hardly had we risen, dressed and eaten, when we 
must take our books and go to school. 

Dressed in a grey uniform, with our hair woven into 
braids that hung down our backs, we felt strangers 
even to ourselves. We were surrounded by strange 
children, with broad white faces, blue eyes and thin 
yellow hair. Our hair, heavy, black and glistening, 
drew upon us their first jeers. They pulled our thick 
braids and called them " tails of Arabian horses," which 
wounded us painfully. Struck by the slender curves of 
our oval faces and by the melancholy expression of our 
large dark eyes, the kindest among them called us 
" Egyptian mummies." 

With difficulty we restrained our rage. In turn we 
mocked their heavy and dull aspect and their pink 
soft flesh, which disgusted us as much as our more 
golden colour displeased them. But our retorts were 
weapons that turned against us ; for each Armenian 
word that escaped our lips we were severely punished 
by the teachers, for it was forbidden to speak our 
language in a Russian school. 

Deprived of luncheon for our crime, we returned 
to our house in the evening fainting with hunger. 
Consoled a little by the tenderness of our mother and 



by our brothers' threats against our tormentors, we 
listened to our father. 

" In such circumstances," he told us, " do as the 
ancient Greeks did when ill-treated by the Romans ; 
do not deign to reply." 

We adopted this counsel, but our brothers, hardier 
and more violent in anger than we, beat their Russian 
schoolmates whenever they cried " Salty ! " in mockery 
of our ancient custom of dipping the new-born into 
salt. When the teachers punished my brothers they 
protested, and this brought upon one of them the 
Wolf's Card, a dishonourable certificate which the 
Russian colleges give rebels ; this made it impossible for 
the offender to receive any further official instruction. 

With such daily provocation, we soon became 
interested in the political talk of our elders. We knew 
that we suffered when we spoke our own melodious 
language, because Baku was a conquered city. And 
very soon we learned the meaning of a new word that 
held for us all the terror that the demons had once 
inspired ; it was the word " pogrom." When we 
heard that word all gaiety fell from our hearts, to be 
replaced by a vague horror. 

Our Caucasus was then under the rule of Prince 
Galitzine, the Viceroy, who had promised us so much 
that all the Caucasian peoples had welcomed him under 
the name of " The Archangel." He deluged us with 
manifestos richly studded with the words " God " 
and " Tsar," in which he urged us to be perfect citizens. 
But these manifestos, in a manner which we did not 
then understand, transformed themselves into pogroms, 
large or small, according to the mood of the Arch- 



Meanwhile, like a storm beyond the northern 
horizon, there was occurring a conflict called the 
Russo-Japanese War. Enchanted, we heard that 
these hostilities were more and more injuring the 
Russians. Every success of the Japanese was applauded ; 
their victories became our own triumphs over our 
oppressors. All the peoples of the Caucasus were 
repeating, with scarcely concealed joy, the news of 
their own defeats. No one doubted that the end of 
the war would be a catastrophe for Russia, the hated 
power in the north which held in bondage a third of 
our ancient Armenian kingdom, and loomed behind 
both Persia and Turkey, our other oppressors. 

We lived upon excitement like a drunkard upon fiery 
liquors, until our blood was inflamed and our heads 
filled with visions. The Cossacks, mounted on powerful 
horses, appeared in the streets. Their fierce, small 
eyes gleamed under tall fur bonnets, whips hung at 
their wrists. Students were forbidden to meet in 
groups of two or three, lest they be plotting. On our 
way to school one morning we heard screams, the 
clatter of horses' hoofs and the whistling of whips. 
We covered our eyes and ran. At night, huddled 
together in our beds by the light of candles, we listened 
while the servants told us of Cossack raids, and these 
stories filled us with terror and mirth. 

Thus we heard that there had been found, at the 
home of a rich and dissipated spendthrift, two bombs. 
He was arrested and led through the streets, escorted 
by guards with unsheathed swords, and left in the 
dungeons of the fortress to be shot next morning. 
Powerful friends reached the car of the Archangel 
in time to save his life, and the surprise of the Cossack 



commander was great when he learned that the two 
bombs, which no one dared touch, were the bowls of 
an English masseur engaged to ply his peaceful trade 
upon the too-round stomach of the rich man, who 
was anxious about his figure. Happily, the Cossacks 
learned the difference between medicine and munitions 
in time. 

Even our mirth was feverish. My sisters and I 
dampened our pillows with tears of laughter when we 
heard of ludicrous invasions of our Armenian weddings, 
betrothals, funerals and even baptisms, by severe and 
heavily armed officers, who expected to find revolu- 
tions even in cradles. But the magic of vodka soothed 
their suspicions, and fetes were resumed under a super- 
vision that often became the most hilarious of the 

" Ah, you may laugh, my young ladies ! " said the 
servants, shaking their heads ominously. There was 
no laughter in our dreams, filled with vague apprehen- 
sions and terrors, and awakening seemed a part of 
nightmare when at midnight we sat up in our beds, 
aroused by shouts and the pounding of sabre-hilts on 
our gates. Then, half-stupefied with sleep and fear, 
we ran to our mother in our nightgowns, while the 
tramp of heavy boots and the light of torches went 
from room to room. The most hidden corners of our 
house were searched, even to unclean laundry, kitchen 
utensils, beds. Amid the wails of the servants and the 
harsh orders of officers, our rooms were reduced to a 
chaos of overturned tables, emptied chests, heaps of 
rugs and blankets, while hurriedly we covered our- 
selves with any garment we could find, in order to pass 
the inspection of the searchers. Grumbling, they 



went away at last, leaving us trembling, weeping, 
divided by fear and anger. 

Needless to say, we took all precautions against being 
suspected of revolutionary sympathies. We sup- 
pressed so completely all use of the words " liberty," 
" revolt " or " the people " that not even among 
ourselves, hardly in our own minds, did we utter them. 
Those words, found by chance in the most innocent 
correspondence, or overheard in the most casual 
conversation, cost months in prison. 

Yet even among these shadows there remained in my 
heart one ray of the sun, and in it bloomed a little 
flower, the flower of my first love. 

Rahim, son of a baker, a Mussulman, poor, ragged, 
but beautiful with his golden skin in the golden sun- 
light beneath our walls — it was his eyes that kindled in 
my heart its first romance. 

I was fourteen, perceiving for the first time the 
beauty of neck and arms and shadows of unbound hair 
reflected in the mirror. I dreamed of love, of a 
gallant lover, handsome and rich, who would give me 
the world to hold in my hands and be too richly 
rewarded by my smile. I dreamed of a prince, and I 
found him in a baker's son. 

We passed his father's little shop whenever we left our 
gates. It stood against our wall, offering to passers-by 
the sight of its large black oven, its mixing bowls and 
floury boards, and its stacks of freshly baked loaves. 
On the low counter that separated it from the street, 
between the piles of bread, Rahim sat in his dress of 
black satin. He was slender and strong. Beneath his 
bonnet of astrakhan his eyes, a trifle slanted, were like 



dark topaz. His skin was golden, and his smile revealed 
teeth as white as milky grains of corn. 

It was his smile that first made me hate, with violent 
hatred, the ugly grey garments I must wear to school. 
I wished that he might see me in my beautiful 
Armenian robes ; I wished to conceal my face from 
him beneath the fluttering red veils that reveal only a 
sparkle of eyes and a hint of curving eyebrows. I 
hurried past, pretending not to have seen him. 

At night, dreaming with open eyes, I said to myself, 
" He is beautiful. He is only the son of a Tartar 
baker," and in delicious pain I felt myself doomed, so 
young, to the tragedy of an unhappy love. 

In the morning, with the bread which his father 
delivered to us each day, came a small Tartarian cake 
that I loved. In the centre of the cake was set a 
forest flower. It was Rahim's little gift to me, 
Khanoum Gueusal, the Beautiful Lady. 

I looked timidly at my mother, but this delicate 
attention, far from making her angry, amused her very 
much. I laughed also, and every morning the sight of 
that little cake and its simple flower made me gay. I 
divined all the sighs that were ascending from his shop 
to my balcony with the odour of fresh bread and the 
heat of the ovens. 

In the evenings when his father, after the last 
ablutions, wrapped himself in his burnoose and went 
to sleep beside his breads, Rahim transformed himself 
into a Medjoun lover. Crouched beside a brazier, his 
eyes closed, his face against the disk of a tambourine, 
he sang softly for entire hours the lamentations of loves 
without memory or hope. Those melodies, voluptu- 
ous and plaintive, rose to rne through the twilight, 

7 6 


completing the beauty of the deep sky and the melan- 
choly of the Caspian Sea furrowed by the beams of the 

Leaning against the railing on the balcony I listened, 
and my heart became a place of dreams. I saw myself 
seized by Cossacks ; a brutal, hairy arm flings me 
across a saddle pommel, and with the speed of the wind 
I am carried away toward an indefinable horror. But 
suddenly I hear screams, shouts ; the horse stumbles 
and falls, I hear the dying groans of Cossacks, and 
beside me kneels Rahim. Blood pours from a wound 
over his heart ; he is dying. " I have saved you, 
Khanoum Gueusal," he says, " and I have given only 
my life. It is a little thing." I take his beautiful 
head in my lap, I press my lips to his forehead, his eye- 
lids. " Oh, Rahim, Rahim, I love you ! I have loved 
you always, and you never knew, and now you are 
dying ! " 

Or perhaps he was not wounded. He carried me 
away to safety, he knelt and kissed my hands. My life 
was his because he had saved it, but he was a Mussul- 
man. " No, no, not even for you can I abandon my 
religion. All that is left for me is death, for happiness 
with you would be sin, and I cannot live without you." 

All the sadness of the world overflowed my heart in 
the tears that fell from my lashes. Golden and black 
in the light of the brazier, the brooding face of Rahim 
was like a medallion against the tambourine, and still 
the music rose to me, sobbing of unutterable longings 
and the infinite wastes of human fate. 

Meanwhile the politics of Prince Galitzine went 
their way. He issued an order to confiscate the wealth 



of our churches. The Cossacks executed it immedi- 
ately. Mounted on their horses, they rode even into 
the sanctuaries to tear from the priests the sacred 
relics that they refused to give up. 

The whole population, Armenian, Mussulman, even 
heathen, revolted against this desecration. The clergy, 
no matter of what religion, are revered by all the 
peoples of Asia. Their resentment infuriated the 
Cossacks, who increased their ruthlessness. But that 
did not prevent the miners from striking, nor the 
students from making demonstrations and holding 
meetings. A social earthquake rumbled beneath our 
feet. Every one plunged into politics. Even my 
little brother, eight years old, was " playing Cossack " 
from morning to night. Riding on my father's cane, 
he charged upon the throng of Socialists (a dozen 
straw chairs), lashing them with his whip and singing 
to the tune of the Marseillaise a song of his own com- 
position, " God save the Tsar ! Liberty, liberty, 
liberty and the Tsar ! " 

My father, catching him at this play, which too 
painfully reminded us of the reality, placed the cul- 
prit in a corner with his nose to the wall, a punish- 
ment which the little rebel endured bravely ; it did 
not at all hinder him from resuming the game. And 
my father, his head bowed and his hands crossed, 
walked gravely up and down, saying, " We are on the 
eve of grave trouble, grave trouble." 

One day our servants, returning from market, 
brought strange news. The Russians were buying 
great quantities of grain and rice in order to feed their 
households during the massacres of Armenians by the 
Tartars. Massacres ? We were incredulous, imagin- 



ing that such things happened only in Turkey. My 
father disdained to listen to such rumours, knowing 
the friendliness existing between the Tartars and the 
Armenians of the Caucasus. He feared the bloody 
disaster of revolution, but it was absurd, preposterous, 
to believe that the Tartars would attack the Armenians. 
" In such times, one hears anything and everything. 
Gusts of wind, blowing in all directions, precede the 

My mother, my sisters and I were in the bath. In 
the little room whose wooden walls dripped with 
moisture, we lounged on wooden benches against the 
wall. Servants, barefooted and wrapped in white 
cloths, fed with large blocks of wood the huge Russian 
stove that filled three-quarters of the room, while 
others emptied over red-hot stones jars of cold water 
that instantly became steam. The hissing noises, the 
wide mouth of the stove, blazing like that of a dragon, 
the suffocating vapour and the heat made our bathing 
seem like a descent into Satan's realm. We lay gasp- 
ing, wiping the streams of perspiration from our bodies 
with wet hands, and longing for the moment when, 
refreshed and cool in clean linens, we would lounge on 
the balcony in the sweet garden air, eating fruits and 

Suddenly we heard a sharp, crackling sound. We sat 
up, startled. " What have you done ? " my mother 
said sharply to the servants. But they were standing 
motionless, as surprised as we. The sound came again, 
and again. Then a pattering of them, like a hail- 

" The massacre ! " cried my mother, with white 
lips. The servants ran, their screams trailing behind 

D.S. 79 F 


them. In an instant we were flinging on our garments, 
not even stopping to dry our bodies. A profound 
indignation drowned in me all other feeling. 

" Yes, yes," I thought. " Like miserable beasts we 
shall be butchered by the daggers of these villains, 
armed against a peaceful people that has never harmed 
them. And my five brothers, beautiful as young gods, 
will die like sheep, unable to defend themselves ; they 
so handsome, so strong, so full of life and courage." 

The house was filled with lamentations and the 
clatter of running feet. The high iron gates of the 
court had been barricaded. My brothers, with a 
few menservants, were waiting behind them. The 
crackling we heard was the rattle of bullets against the 
iron. Now and then, near or far away, we heard 
hideous screams. 

The Christian resignation of my father, who, on his 
knees, was praying, roused my indignation to fury. 
" Pray, father. As for me, in the name of God and 
His Son, one of these villains will know the sweetness 
of my teeth in his throat." 

With rapid steps I went through the house. It bore 
already the aspect of a deserted place through which 
terror has passed. A servant, crouched against the 
wall, caught at my skirts, idiotic with fear. Humanity, 
what a wretched thing it is ! I could have set my heel 
on the face that shamelessly revealed such abasement. 
I went on. But there was nowhere to go. 

Waiting was more terrible than death would have 
been. From time to time a fusillade of shots struck 
our gates, our walls. Tinkling falls of glass were 
heard ; the windows of the upper floors were being 
shattered by bullets. We heard outbursts of shouting 



in the streets, the crash of breaking things and sudden 
stampedes of many feet. In this way the day passed, 
while we felt the slow approach of the moment when, 
the first fury of killing abated, hundreds of Tartars, 
encouraged by the Russians, would make a concerted 
attack upon us and our wealth. 

Night came. They would do it in the darkness. 
To die in the darkness seemed infinitely terrible to me, 
who so loved the sun. I thought of Rahim. It was 
his people, the Tartars, who besieged us. All my 
anger dissolving into terror at last, I saw myself at his 
feet, begging him to obtain from them mercy for my 
family, in the name of Mohammed. Yes, I would give 
myself to him, I would give myself to a Mussulman for 
my whole life, only, only to be saved from death in the 

A kindly stupor at last came over me. I spent the 
night neither awake nor asleep, huddled beside my 
mother, my poor mother who tried to hold in her 
arms all her daughters at once, not knowing which 
of us she would, at the last, defend with her own 

Morning. My little brother, forlorn and miserable 
in the midst of this terror which he did not under- 
stand, began to cry that he was hungry. It was then 
that we realized that there was not enough food in the 
house to feed us all. Betrayed by my father's too small 
knowledge of humanity, we had not provided for a 
siege, as the Russians had done. Scattering shots and 
screams, and the smoke of burning buildings rising 
here and there in the morning sunshine, told us that 
to venture beyond our barricaded gates meant death. 
My brothers, exhausted by the night of watching, 



slept on the stones in the court, their hands still 
clutching their guns. They must have food. 

We women did not eat. We gave all that we had 
to my brothers. During that day we began to learn 
what hunger is. All around us the killing was still 
going on. Late that afternoon the house next ours 
was raided and all the household was killed. I saw one 
of the Armenian maidservants pursued across the flat 
roof by a drunken Tartar with a bloody knife. When 
I looked again he was throwing her body from the 
roof to the courtyard, where smoke and laughter 
told me that they were burning the furniture of the 

Since our house had not been attacked, and the 
massacre had not stopped, we thought that the 
Tartars intended to starve us. My brothers threat- 
ened to rush into the street, to die after killing as 
many Tartars as they could. My baby brother cried 
all day long. 

" O God ! what sin have I committed against 
Thee, that I must suffer so ? " my mother said, trying 
to hush him in her arms. 

At nightfall I heard a tambourine jingling beneath 
our walls. It seemed to me like a memory of days so 
long past that I could only faintly remember them. 
It was Rahim, singing again the lamentations of love. 
I looked down from my balcony and saw him dimly in 
the shadows. His father was not there, the brazier 
was unlighted, the shop closed. I could not see his 
face against the disk of the tambourine ; I saw nothing 
but the shadows and the moonlit half of the deserted 
street, where the body of some one killed two days 
before still lay. But I felt that his eyes were fixed on 



my balcony, and as a sign to him I put one hand from 
the darkness into the moonlight. 

Then I saw him move into the light. He looked 
this way and that, and stealthily opened his burnoose 
to show me, hidden beneath it, a loaf of bread. He 
made a sign with his hand and disappeared again close 
to the wall. 

I understood. At the risk of his life he was sending 
us food. He, a Tartar, whose people were killing 
mine ! I wept. 

The servants let down a rope and drew up baskets of 
bread and meat, while I — I promised myself never to 
love anyone but Rahim. Yes, if at that moment I, an 
Armenian and a Christian, could have married that son 
of a Tartar baker, I would have done it. I would have 
become the wife of a Mussulman and served him 
humbly all my life, thinking it not too much to give in 
return for that one beautiful act. 

It was certainly to Rahim that we owed our lives, for 
the impatience of my starving brothers would surely 
have opened the iron gates to welcome a little earlier 
the death we awaited. 

It was the second night. My mother, my sisters and 
I were awake at midnight, huddled together around a 
brazier in a little room at the head of the stairs. My 
little brother, enjoying the delight of not being put 
to bed, was playing with a box of paper soldiers, 
which he marched and counter-marched across his 
rug. Suddenly we heard running feet on the stairs, 
and one of our servants screamed, " The Tartars ! 
The Tartars ! " At the same moment we heard 
the creaking of the gates, and heavy boots in the 



In our overwhelming terror a thought, a word, was 
impossible. Like a madness, a desire to run, only to 
run, no matter where, since death was everywhere, 
seized us all. My mother, grasping Heguine and 
Zelah by the hands, fled blindly toward the stairway. 
Passing my little brother, I clutched him. But he, 
understanding nothing and enraged by being inter- 
rupted at his play, took hold of a heavy table with both 
hands, kicking and screaming. 

" Come, come ! " I said, tugging at him. He hung 
on with the strength of rage, crying, " I won't leave 
my soldiers ! I won't leave my soldiers ! " To satisfy 
him, I gathered up a handful of the soldiers, but he 
still hung on to the table. " Put them all in their box, 
all ! " he insisted. " I will not go without all my 

I went down on my knees and began to gather up 
his soldiers, throwing them into the box. The door 
opened, and the room seemed filled with Tartars — 
Tartars with shaved heads and unsheathed knives. 
My brother screamed. I could not see him, but 
thought he had been pinned to the table by their 
knives. I heard a voice saying, in Armenian, " Do not 
be afraid, sister ; we are Armenians. We have come 
to save you." 

^ " Quick, quick ! " said another voice. " Don't lose 
time here. Where are the others ? " 

My brothers had opened the gates to a handful of 
brave Armenians disguised as Tartars, who had come 
to rescue us. In a stupor I followed them, and I 
remember only that we went stealthily through dark 
ways, hiding sometimes in deeper shadows on the 
crooked streets, and I remember a red glow of a bon- 



fire, with dancing figures outlined against it, like 
silhouettes of fiends. 

We reached a large empty house in the Russian 
quarter of the city. It belonged to a rich Russian, 
who had offered it as a shelter for the refugees. The 
floors of the large bare rooms were a mass of huddled 
Armenians, who had lost everything, and who sat 
silently, with blank, staring eyes. Here and there 
mothers were trying to comfort their sobbing children. 

From the brave men who had rescued us we learned 
that Prince Galitzine had had the happy thought of 
organizing a little series of massacres between the 
Mussulmans and the Christians, in order to divide 
them and prevent a general rising of all the Caucasian 
peoples against his government. The entire absence 
of police or Cossacks in the streets went to prove the 
truth of this genial rumour. 

We had brought nothing with us ; we had thought 
only of saving our lives. This house, inhabited by 
misery, gave us shelter, but no food nor drink. The 
markets were closed, every house in Baku was barri- 
caded ; each inhabitant was living like a mouse in its 
hole. The city was cut off from the world ; no 
peasants were bringing in food, no messages or trains 
were going out. The little food and water that 
foraging bands of armed men could find and bring 
back to us was divided among the children and the 

The house was often under Tartar fire, but none of 
the murdering bands dared attack us, in numbers as we 
were, and armed. Not all Armenians are so faithful to 
the teachings of Jesus that they submit meekly to their 
butchers ; my people, the most industrious, intelligent 



and cultured people in our despoiled ancient kingdom 
of Armenia, are as strong as any, and as brave. When 
they do not fight to defend themselves, it is their living 
religion, not cowardice, that ties their hands. Now, 
armed and resolute, our men were prepared to defend 
our place of refuge. 

On the edge of the flat roof there was a little cham- 
ber, and here, in turn, each of us stayed for two hours, 
watching for the approach of a Tartar band. A whistle 
was to be the signal of danger. One night, sitting there 
in the darkness, I saw two shadows slipping along the 
opposite wall. Uncertain whether they were Ar- 
menians or Tartars, I held the whistle to my lips, 
hesitating to blow it. 

To my astonishment, the shutters of a shop opened 
without a sound, and the two shadow}' - persons 
vanished behind them. Ten minutes passed, when 
for an instant the wind opened the shutters, and I saw 
by the light of a candle four men pillaging the shop, 
which belonged to a rich Armenian. I blew the 
whistle with all my breath, and the thieves fled like 
terrified rats. 

Relieved of the watch, I found an empty corner of 
one of the lower rooms, and slept. A revolver shot 
awakened me. Running to the window, I saw against 
the opposite wall a young man sinking gently, as 
though quietly sitting down. In a moment several of 
our men crossed the street to examine the body. It 
was that of a young Georgian Armenian, sent by his 
avaricious mother to pillage the shop from which I had 
frightened the Tartars. She paid dearly for her greed, 
that horrible mother. For three days and nights she 
howled above the body of her son like a wolf above her 



slain cub, beating her breast and shrieking, " It was I, 
it was I who killed him ! " 

She was still screaming when on the fifth day the 
Cossacks again appeared in the city. Riding down the 
streets on their horses, their revolvers held ready to 
fire, they at once, without a shot, imposed peace and 

We returned to our house expecting to find it in 
ruins. As though by a miracle it had not been burned, 
it had not even been entered. All was as we had left 
it. Even the cushions still bore the imprint of our 
bodies, and my little brother's paper soldiers lay waiting 
for him. Our servants, gathering the gossip of the 
bazaars, explained this miracle, for which, however, we 
did not cease to thank God. Some one among the 
Tartars had spread the tale that our house was filled 
with bombs from cellar to roof-top. For that reason 
no one had dared approach it. 

A few weeks passed. Rumours of new massacres 
began to circulate through the city. This time no 
one was incredulous ; each household prepared for 
defence. Again the police and the Cossacks dis- 
appeared ; again the barbarian Tartars, insane with 
vodka and fully armed, fell upon the Armenian quar- 
ters. Again we heard the shots rattling against our 
gates, and again we waited through hours of anguish 
that were more than could be borne, and ended in a 
stupor of mind and senses. The garden of our house 
was lighted through the night by the red glare of 
burning houses, and we heard the shrieks of whole 
households barricaded in the flames. 

At the end of the fourth day the Cossacks re- 



appeared, bringing order and peace. Tens of thou- 
sands of dead lay in the streets and covered the Chris- 
tian and Mussulman cemeteries. The odour of the 
corpses smothered the city. Everywhere women with 
mad eyes were seeking their children, and husbands 
were moving the heaps of rotting flesh. 

It was announced that a Mass for the dead would be 
celebrated in the great square, and that the Governor 
of Baku, Prince Nakachidze, would himself honour our 
dead with his glorious presence. 

The great square was packed with human bodies as 
closely as a pomegranate with seeds. The black and 
violet veils of the women, the coloured turbans and tall 
fur caps of the men, were like a mosaic laid before the 
open doors of the church. Because we had arrived a 
little late, and also because we disliked the pressure of 
crowds, we stood on the threshold of a little shop at 
one side of the square. 

Preceded by an escort of Cossacks, haughty in their 
high astrakhan bonnets, their coloured sashes and wide 
blue trousers and glistening boots, Prince Nakachidze 
arrived with his suite. Hardly had he taken his place 
before the church, hardly had the choir begun the 
Mass, when a horrible explosion, followed instantly by 
many more, drowned the first notes of the Miserere. A 
groan burst from the great throat of the crowd. 

A dozen bombs had fallen upon the Prince and his 
suite ; they were dead. And hardly had we asked 
what was happening, when the Cossacks were let loose. 

All those blond, robust horsemen hurled themselves 
upon us, their purple faces emitting their traditional 
piercing whistle, their whips hissing in the air. Like 


demons from hell their great horses, with quivering 
nostrils and gleaming teeth, charged neighing upon the 
packed masses of human flesh. 

The crowd was like a carpet rolling back beneath the 
hoofs that stamped upon it. Pressed against the 
grating of the shop-front, unable to move, I saw a huge 
horse strike down the man beside me, tearing at his 
flesh with his teeth. The Cossack's face, congested 
with blood, glistening with sweat, set in a horrible 
grin, was imprinted on my vision. The horse reare 
back on his haunches, wheeling toward the crowd, and 
sprinkled me with bloody foam from his jaws. 

In a few instants the square was emptied, save for the 
multitudes of corpses that lay upon it, heaps of rags 
slowly exuding blood. 

That night the whole city rose in a fury no Cossack 
could stamp out. The leaders of Tartars and Ar- 
menians met and swore upon the Bible and the Koran 
to fight together loyally against the infamous Prince 
Galitzine. Beneath the unconquerable turmoil of 
rebellion there was a feast of love ; in the streets 
Christians and Mussulmans embraced each other be- 
neath the very eyes of the Cossacks. The government 
was helpless before that uprising of two hundred 
thousand people against its little band of professional 

A new governor arrived, to replace the Archangel 
and subdue the riots. He did not subdue them ; they 
ceased. And at once a general strike, supported by the 
entire population, peacefully took the place of war. It 
was more terrible. For two months the oil-wells were 
idle, no trains ran, there was no water, no light. We 
lived like people in a besieged city desperately holding 

8 9 


out against famine ; we divided carefully each day our 
little store of food, rigorously rationed by my father, 
who, as a leader of the Armenians, was supporting the 
strike that beggared us. 

Yet not all our hours were tragic, nor even sad. 
The human spirit is a fountain ; no weight can wholly 
suppress it. Though Rahim could no longer send me 
the 6mall cake I loved, his little offering of a flower 
appeared each morning on the small loaf of bread his 
father could supply us. In the evenings his tam- 
bourine still told of hopeless loves, and I — I will 
confess it — dreamed that some day I might speak to 
him. We had our happy hours in the gardens, and 
friends came and went as always. 

One morning we were expecting some guests whom 
my mother had invited to drink coffee with us. The 
table was already prepared, with all the luxury possible. 
My sisters and I, dressed in our prettiest gowns, were 
teasing my mother, who was still in her neglige, when 
we heard in the street a sound of singing. It was the 
Russian hymn, " God keep for us our Tsar." 

Hastily veiling ourselves, we went out on the bal- 
cony, and saw a great procession coming down the 
street. A beautiful portrait of the Tsar, painted on 
silk and upheld on golden poles, led the way, followed 
by many silken banners, all carried by Russians, their 
heads bare and their bonnets in their hands. Behind 
them came a great crowd of Russians and Tartars, 

What was our surprise to see the banners and the 
portrait of the Tsar stop before our house, against the 
opposite wall, while the men who carried them raised 
still louder their hymn to God. The crowd became a 



sea of heads beneath us ; many of the men had lost 
their bonnets, and we easily distinguished the shaved 
heads of the Tartars from the long blond locks of the 
Russians. The hymn ended in a sudden howl, more 
terrifying than that of wolves. " Down with the 
Armenians ! Death to the dogs ! Death to the 
unbelievers ! " Already the gates had given way, and 
the mob poured into our court. 

In the hallway we were met by a manservant. 
" The Tsar has given them a Constitution ! " he said. 
His stiff lips fascinated me. " Every one is free to do 
as he likes. That is why — that is why the Cossacks 
are burning the quarter. Every Armenian is to be 

The Cossacks hated us. Among all the Caucasian 
peoples we were the only cultured Asiatics, and our 
culture humiliated these barbarians, who could not 
write their names. 

My mother, shaking as though palsied by cold, 
tried to cover my little brother with her skirts. My 
father, standing before us, repeated in a firm voice a 
prayer to God. Outside the hymn was still rising, 
half lost in the shouts of the mob. My heart seemed 
a lump of ice and I clenched my teeth, which chat- 
tered. The mob was sweeping up the stairs and 
filling our rooms, with a sound of smashing doors, 
shouts and trampling. Round pink faces of Russians 
and yellow faces of Tartars swam before my eyes. I 
smclled vodka and sweat and unwashed bodies. 

Without stopping to kill us, each began to seize 
whatever he could. Chairs, arm-chairs, little tables, 
curtains, mirrors, leapt into the air and passed from 
hand to hand over the heads of the crowd. Furniture 



too heavy to lift was being smashed. A flaming torch 
appeared, disappeared. It had set fire to a heap of 
splintered wood. Already the house began to burn, 
but the pillaging continued in the smoke. A drunken 
Tartar struggled with a Russian for a tapestry that 
was already blazing. 

My father finished his prayer and told us to follow 
him. But we could not get through the crowd ; 
hundreds upon hundreds of men jammed the rooms 
and the stairways. The air was filled with thick 
smoke. From the upper storeis men were escaping 
by jumping from balcony to balcony, and sliding down 
the columns like monkeys. At intervals we still heard 
the song, " God keep for us our Tsar," rising from the 
street, mixed with cries, " Death to the Armenians ! 
Death to the dogs ! " 

The mob, terrified by the fire, carried us with it 
down the stairway into the court. We were torn 
apart by the crush of bodies. I fought desperately. 
Somehow we got through into an open space before 
the gates. Suddenly I heard curious whistling sounds, 
like the passing of insects with whirring wings. My 
father tottered, and slowly sank back on me. I put 
my shoulder under his armpit, and held him upright. 
Wishing to screen him from the bullets, and having 
nothing, I covered him with my veil. 

A few steps away the Cossacks, leaning back in their 
saddles, were smoking their pipes and watching the 
scene. I took the hern of the captain's coat between 
my fingers and said to him, " Brother, in the name of 
Christ, I beg you, save my father." 

He spurred his horse and replied harshly, " To dogs 
the death of dogs." 



I could say no more; my throat contracted. My 
father was sinking ; I could not hold him up. I 
knelt, covering his face with kisses and tears. O my 
father, my father ! He had said to me always, " My 
little daughter, you must not judge the good Russians 
by the deeds of the Cossacks. The true Russians are 
generous and kind. The Cossacks are a mongrel 
Tartar people, barbarians from the steppes of Siberia, 
and that is not their fault. One must not judge them 
too harshly, either ; they do not know what they do." 

My brothers lifted my father and carried him away. 
Weeping, not seeing where we went or hearing the 
sounds around us, we followed, supporting our mother. 
In the poor little house of a seller of rugs we were given 

My father's wound would not have killed him. But 
he was unable to survive all these horrors and his 
complete ruin, which had fallen upon him in those few 
hours. Not only our house, but all our wells, were 
burned. The whole city was in flames, and even the 
waves of the Caspian Sea, covered with oil from the 
burning wells, spat fire like the jaws of dragons. 

It was thus that the Cossacks celebrated the Consti- 
tution which the Tsar gave the peoples of Russia after 
his defeat at Port Arthur. 

In a bare small room, on a bed of rags, my father lay 

" Forgive me," he said to my mother. " I did not 
mean to abandon you thus." 

My mother, unwilling to trouble him with her grief, 
silently kissed his hand. Her heart was so full of tears 
that she dared not utter a word which might make them 



Overwhelmed by a lethargy which weighed down 
my limbs and eyelids like the fumes of opium, I crouched 
against the wall. I felt nothing. My little brother 
sat beside me. He did not understand the calamities 
that had befallen us, but from time to time a large tear 
rolled from his wondering eyes, and he clenched his 
teeth on a sob that shook his chest. My sisters wept 
silently, smothering their sobs with folds of their veils. 
My mother leaned above my dying father, motionless 
as a statue, only the long folds of her veils quivered 
without ceasing, like the poplars when there is no wind. 

A long gasping sigh was my father's last breath. My 
mother did not stir. " Gone ! gone ! " she whispered. 
Then, after a long silence, she swayed forward and lay 
with her forehead pressed to his hand. She said, " I 
did not know that I loved him so ; I did not know." 

It was the first time we had heard her speak of 
her love. 


Persia: Resht 

IN the terror that still held the city we could not 
even decently mourn our dead. My father was 
buried hurriedly ; his body, guarded by an escort of 
police, was carried through the streets accompanied by 
a few brave men who made their way past scattered 
corpses, beneath the black smoke from the burning 
wells. My little mother, homeless and a widow, 
gathered us around her to consider what should be 
done. Some decision as to our fate must be made at 

" As for you, my little daughter," she said, embrac- 
ing me tenderly, " you are to be married to-morrow." 

This information surprised me very much. But as 
I learned that, even in the wreckage of our fortunes, a 
respected maker of marriages had found for me a hus- 
band in a young Persian, handsome, rich, and of good 
family, I could not help being pleased. 

" O my mother," I said, clasping her in my arms. 
" how can I bear to leave you ? " My tears were 
sincere, but beneath the grief which was like a load of 
ashes on my heart, I felt life becoming faintly warm 
again. To-morrow I would escape from this nightmare 
of death and fear ; I would be going toward the sun- 
shine again. I would be a bride, amid the roses and 
fountains of Persian gardens. This marriage was a great 
good fortune, and my mother was happy that our 
calamities had not destroyed her hopes of finding me a 
good husband. Even in our poverty, our name was 

d.s. 95 G 


so honourable that the noblest families of Persia would 
receive me as a daughter. 

" Be obedient, my dear daughter, love your husband 
and honour his people. Do not forget daily to thank 
God Who remembered us in our sorrow, and His 
blessing will be sunshine and dew upon you all the days 
of your life," she said, putting aside her violet mourning 
veils to kiss me for the last time. 

We were so poor that even her veils had been given 
her, and my oldest married sister had dressed me in 
her own garments. She was to accompany me to the 
church ; my mother, being in mourning, could not go, 
and in those days of terror there could be no marriage 
festivities. I embraced my mother and sisters, wrapped 
a dark cloak around me, and with hurried steps 
followed my oldest sister. 

It was evening. The city was in darkness, lighted 
only by the moon and the red glow from smouldering 
fires. A few agents of the police marched beside us, 
brusque and impatient because of the late hour. The 
district was under martial law ; the streets were 
deserted. A few vagabond boys followed us, uncertain 
whether we were being taken to the prisons. They 
followed us across the square and into the church. 

In the light of the candles upon the altar I saw three 
Persians, unknown to me. My heart beat painfully ; 
I glanced at them, seeking the first sight of my hus- 
band. He was a young man, dark-eyed and with a 
brow like marble ; this was all I saw before modestly 
lowering my eyes and kneeling before the priest, who 
at once hurriedly began reading the marriage cere- 
mony. He was obliged to make haste, so that we could 
catch the boat that was to take us to Persia. 

9 6 


I found myself for the first time on a boat, leaving 
behind me the land of my birth, going out into the 
darkness that lay upon the Caspian Sea. In a tiny 
cabin, where the aunt of my husband had led me, I 
lay in a berth and felt the ship swaying and dipping. 
Somewhere in it there was a beat like that of a labour- 
ing heart, and from time to time a long shudder passed 
through the timbers. The boat, too, was alone in 
the darkness, and did not know to what destination it 
was going, nor what awaited it there. 

I thought of my husband, whose eyes were so dark 
and full of light beneath his white brow, and I felt in 
his youth a sympathy for mine. Oh, I would love him ! 
I would love him ardently and tenderly, and he would 
love me, and we would be happy. But suddenly I 
found that I was weeping, softly, so that my new aunt 
would not hear me, and my whole heart seemed to melt 
and flow back toward my mother and my sisters, and 
all the happy days that were already so far away. 

In the morning, on the deck of the little boat, I 
walked beside my new aunt, a stern old woman who 
had made the journey as a patriarchal duty, and who 
spoke very little. Carefully concealed in my veils, I 
looked at the other passengers : Armenian merchants, 
fierce, hardy-looking men ; Greeks, swarthy and talka- 
tive ; Persians with soft eyes and melancholy smiles. 
Timid beneath their glances, I leaned on the rail and 
looked at the waters, in which the great paddle-wheels 
cut deep green trenches. I saw my husband approach- 
ing, his venerable uncle at his side. In passing, he 
smiled, and in a clear low voice said to me, " Good 
morning, Khanoum." I replied to him, " Good 
morning, Khan." Under the eyes of his uncle and his 



aunt, who respectively guarded us, it was impossible 
to say more, but I treasured the sound of his voice in 
my heart, which repeated it again and again. 

Each morning I waited eagerly on the deck, hoping 
that we would meet, and each morning he passed me 
and uttered that greeting, to which I responded 
modestly. In the afternoon of the third day we arrived 
at that spot in the sea where its green waters mingle 
with the yellow waters of the Murghab river. 

A violent storm was lashing the terrified waves with 
whips of rain. The sea rose in mountains of water. 
The boat tossed and rolled, as though angrily trying 
to shake us from its back. We watched anxiously the 
movements of little boats setting out to fetch us in 
from the sea. 

Suspended in mid-air, between the big boat and the 
little, I felt that all the world had become battling 
air and water. By a miracle, at last, my feet touched 
solidity, unsteady though it was. Chilled and drenched 
by spray, I huddled beside my aunt, and watched the 
Tartar boatman who made our little craft glide skil- 
fully from the summit of one liquid mountain to 
the next, with the words, " Ya Allah ! " This robust 
Mongolian, high-cheeked, with slanting eyes and shaved 
head surmounted by a little cap of black felt, inspired 
in me admiration and awe. The little boat moved 
beneath his booted feet as though it were controlled 
by his will, and the sturdy torso beneath the blue blouse 
seemed a living part of the boat ; he was a centaur of 
the sea. 

On the quays of Enzeli, below the tall white and blue 
tower of the Shah's palace, crowds watched our 
approach. Beyond the quaint palace and the bazaars 

9 8 


were beautiful forests that lay like green robes slipping 
from the snowy breasts of the mountains. The sky 
was a clear and intense blue ; the bright air was 
a-flutter with wings of land-birds and sea-birds, and 
a breath of gardens came from the green-fringed shore. 
Before us lay the clear blue waters of Lake Murghab, 
shimmering silk brocaded with the green velvet of 
many little islands. It seemed to me that in reaching 
Persia I had come to Paradise. 

The crowds welcomed us with cries of thanks to 
God and to Allah for our escape from death. They 
showed us gardens and houses demolished that very 
morning by two great dragons — for thus they name the 
whirling pillars of water that come from the Caspian 
Sea to march over the land until they meet a resistance 
that overpowers them. Below Enzeli these two dra- 
gons had drowned and carried away whole villages. 

Without delay we again embarked in a narrow little 
boat drawn by Assyrians, who were to take us to Pir- 
Bazaar. These half-naked men, whose bronze bodies 
glistened with sweat, and whose bare feet strained 
against the boards, pulled on a rope that drew the boat 
onward against the strength of the current. We passed 
by the green islands, where we saw, drowned among 
trees, the wooden towers of Mongolian houses, and the 
square white Russian houses with red-tiled roofs. 
Little boats were passing from island to island to the 
the shore, flamingos and herons flapped above our 
heads, and on the banks we saw the little humped 
Persian buffaloes grazing. 

At Pir-Bazaar a hundred persons received us, firing 
their rifles in welcome. As I set my feet on the shore 
the traditional oilcring of a lamb, killed at my feet, 



shook my heart. The plaintive bleat was still in my 
ears, when a horrified murmur from the crowd suc- 
ceeded it. The blood of the lamb refused to run 
toward me. Disastrous omen ! Happiness would 
elude me all my life. 

My heart beat violently ; through my veils I sent a 
pleading glance toward my husband, and it seemed to 
me that his untroubled air was meant to comfort me. 

Two carriages, each drawn by four Arabian horses 
ornamented with coral and blue beads, were waiting 
for us. I entered the second, with the aunt. We set 
out on a fine straight road, paved with blocks of stone. 
The jolting of the carriage, the stern manner of the 
aunt, and the swarming fears, doubts and hopes which 
danced like witches in my mind, to the sound of the 
lamb's bleat, prevented my observing anything of the 
country through which we passed. But when we 
entered the gates of Resht my eyes were dazzled by 
flowers, fruits, coloured turbans, naked children, camels 
in gorgeous trappings, crowds of merchants, beggars, 
dervishes, nobles, brilliant yellows, blues, greens, 
beneath the burning light of the sun. 

Our carriage stopped with a jerk. The carriage in 
which my husband rode had halted before us in a lane 
too narrow for carriages to pass. The aunt dis- 
mounted, I followed trembling, and we made our way 
on foot over an uneven pavement, accompanied by the 
enraged barking of innumerable dogs. High iron gates 
ended the lane. The thought that those stern tall 
doors would close me in forever made me shudder. I 
approached them with the emotion of a convict before 
the door of his cell. 

They opened, and we walked through a stone passage 



and another gateway into a large garden. I saw before 
me a square white house, the second floor surrounded 
by colonnades. Below these, on the threshold, stood 
my new mother in her veils, and my new father, Assa- 
tour-Khan, grave and majestic. 

Again a poor lamb was killed at my feet. Again the 
blood refused to flow towards me, but remained in a 
pool that stained red the quivering woolly body. My 
new mother made an heroic effort to conceal her 
horror of me and her anguish at this omen of misery 
for her son. My husband, taking her arm gently, tried 
to console her. " These are the old beliefs of Abraham 
and Isaac, my mother ; we are far from them now." 

With a noble and generous manner, my new father 
said to me : " May your steps be light and your feet 
tread ways of righteousness in my house." Touched 
almost to tears by his gentleness, which revived my 
courage, I kissed the hand he offered me. 

But there was no time to regain my self-control, for 
I found myself in a great State chamber, an immense 
room dimly lighted by stained-glass windows, richly 
draped with tapestries, and filled with a throng of 
strangers. Immediately I was taken into the arms of 
an old man who trembled from head to ankles while he 
poured upon my head a flood of good wishes. As he 
had no teeth, I could not comprehend what he was 
saying ; only two phrases reached me : " May you 
grow old upon the same cushions with your master," 
and, " Kiss the hands of this patriarchal family." 

The gaze of three ancient ladies who were crouched 
in a row upon a divan eloquently told me where 
I should commence this rite. I approached them 
and, closing my eyes to shut out the sight of their 



withered hands and blue nails, like those of corpses, I 
kissed the edge of their sleeves. Then quickly I turned 
toward the others. It seemed to me cruel that I must 
kiss so many cold, aged hands, from which my lips 
recoiled as from the touch of death. I looked des- 
pairingly at them all, and, gathering all my resolution, 
I stopped before an old man who stood beside my new 
father. His respectable appearance, his long, well- 
combed, white beard, and the odour of musk that 
surrounded him, inspired in me a little confidence. 
Taking his hand, I kissed it with sincere respect. 

A few muffled laughs struck me like blows. My 
new mother said coldly, " He is our Hadji, my daugh- 
ter, an old Hadji of Jerusalem." Assatour-Khan 
smiled broadly, and clapping the old man on the 
shoulder, " You are the lucky one ! " he said ; " you see 
what honours we give to faithful servants." 

The old man, overwhelmed with confusion, took his 
hand hastily from my lips and did not reply. Some 
one said in my ear, " He is our watchman, an old beggar 
from the sacred places." 

My anger and misery at being ridiculed were too 
much to bear. I covered my face with my veils to 
hide my tears, and without more words I was led into 
my room to be left alone. 

As I was in mourning, forty days must pass before 
I would be brought for the first time into the presence 
of the young Persian who was now my master. These 
forty days were devoted to teaching me the duties of a 
young wife. For teachers I was surrounded by a 
number of elderly aunts and old uncles, with their 
parents and grandparents. Besides these, there were 



the wives of our neighbours, and most dreadful of all, 
the three ancient ladies, more than a hundred years old, 
who remained during the whole forty days motionless 
upon the divan in the hall of State. This great room, 
with its tall glazed jars ranged along walls draped with 
rich tapestries, its large immaculate divans covered with 
prim cushions, its little tables of ebony and mother- 
of-pearl, all stiff with propriety beneath the stains of 
red and blue light that fell from the coloured windows 
near the ceiling, became a veritable torture-chamber to 
me. There, standing before the three ancient ladies, 
I listened for hours to their advice and their instruc- 
tion in the marriage laws of Moses, instruction which 
I must follow through all my life. 

First I was forbidden ever to use the impudent words, 
" My husband." I must say, " Himself," or " My 
master." Still more strictly, I was commanded never 
to speak to him, nor even to look at him, during the 
forty days. Nor must I speak to any other member of 
the household ; I must wait humbly to be addressed, 
and reply in one or two words, keeping my hands folded 
on my breast and my eyes downcast. 

Thus imprisoned within myself, I lost hope, like a 
criminal condemned to solitude. It seemed to me that 
even at the far future ending of forty days I should 
never be allowed to speak freely to him, who alone of 
all the household was young enough to understand 
me, and I despaired of ever knowing the joys of love 
described by the poets. 

Every morning, at the third crowing of the cocks, I 
rose from my couch by my new mother's side. With a 
sad heart I dressed myself in my Armenian festival 
robes of heavy brocaded velvet and gold or silver lace. 



I put on all the jewels that had been given me on my 
marriage day : a ring from each of my uncles and aunts, 
and one from each of the uncles and aunts of my 
husband. These rings, family heirlooms of pure soft 
gold carved in intricate designs and set with jewels of 
all colours, quite weighted down all my fingers. Around 
my neck the four strings of pearls with an enormous 
cross of diamonds, the gift of my new mother. When 
she presented it, one of the household had said, " That 
cross is very heavy, and a bad omen for a young bride. 
It would be better to give her the pearls without the 
cross." My new mother coloured, and refused to take 
back the cross which I timidly offered. It was indeed 
very heavy, and its weight on my breast was like another 
load for my heart to carry. " God grant that thy 
marriage be not as heavy upon thee as that cross," the 
women said to me, and every morning when I put it 
on I remembered those words. The cross was terri- 
fying to me, but I wore it, in order not to wound my 
new mother. 

As soon as I was dressed, I hastened to the court to 
await the appearance of Assatour-Khan. It was my 
duty to empty upon his head a jar of cold water, which 
he had the habit of enjoying every morning in order, as 
he said, to clear the brain. This was a service which my 
husband's mother had suggested to me as a delicate 
attention to my new father ; one of the scores of ser- 
vants had formerly performed it. While Assatour-Khan 
dried his head, I ran to the veranda, where servants 
were preparing the morning tea. One of them indi- 
cated to me the proper little tray ; I took it and entered 
the hall of State, where, standing with respectfully 
lowered eyes under the gaze of the three ancient ladies, 



I held the tray until Assatour-Khan should enter. 

He arrived, said good morning, and held his hand to 
my lips. I kissed it and waited, without moving or 
uttering a word, while he drank his tea. Then I 
handed the tray to a servant who waited for it behind 
a door, and from another servant I took a heavy Bible. 
Having read a verse from it and recited " Our Father," 
I awaited Assatour- Khan's commands. 

As he knew by heart the calendar of the days of the 
saints and apostles in which our religion is very rich, 
he said without hesitation, " We honour to-day Saint 
Matthew and. Saint Kirakas, as well as the luminous 
spirit of Saint Karapet." 

He installed himself on a divan, and I prepared to 
read for three hours from heavy books written in the 
Armenian of the Middle Ages, which I repeated per- 
fectly without understanding one word. Happy to 
find me so enlightened in the scriptures, my new father 
was not sorry to find a few evidences of negligence in 
my education, as he was flattered by his ability to 
remove them. 

" My daughter, I find that your knowledge of the 
rites of our religion leaves much to be desired. There- 
fore I wish you to learn by heart the marriage service 
and the service for the dead, as well as the Christmas and 
Easter Masses." 

" Yes, my father." 

" And now you will recite for me the genealogy of 
the family of Noah." 

I clasped my hands more tightly. My knees trem- 
bled beneath me with weariness and apprehension. In 
a low voice I began, uttered a few words, faltered and 
stopped. I could not remember all the names of 



Noah's great-grandchildren. My head was bowed, but 
I felt the cruel glances of the three ancient women. 

" My daughter," said Assatour-Khan, in a kind but 
firm voice, " to be ignorant of the two hundred and 
forty-four names of the fathers of Abraham is to be 
ignorant of our own origin. You will repeat them after 
me, striving to imprint them indelibly upon your 

He began to recite the names, and I repeated them 
faithfully. Seeing him confuse the Abet branch with 
that of Shem, I said nothing, but respectfully followed 
him in his errors. 

Without boasting, I may say that in a little time I had 
learned so well the generations of the descendants of 
Noah that when I awakened in the middle of the night 
I could recite in one breath, without even shaking off 
my sleepiness, not only the two hundred and forty-four 
names, but those of their legitimate wives and of all 
their concubines by whom they had children. 

Delighted by this brilliant progress, Assatour-Khan 
one day gave me a string of amber beads to which, he 
told me, I might add miraculous powers by fasting for 
fourteen days and repeating twenty-four prayers a day, 
one for each hour. 

" But, my father," I had the courage to ask humbly, 
" must one eat nothing at all during all that time ? " 

" One may eat a very little," he replied, " but no 
meat, milk, honey nor fruit." 

Such a penitence seemed more than I could endure, 
I who so loved fruits and had never passed a day without 
eating quantities of them. However, knowing that 
his praises of my efforts had become known through the 
whole province, and wishing to win his heart com- 



pletely and to overcome entirely the bad omens of my 
entrance into his household, I condemned myself to 
the task. 

My resolution was praised by the whole family. 
When we assembled on our divans to eat together in 
the large room that opened from the hall of State, the 
old Hadji came to sit beside me and share my fast. 
He highly commended my desire to taste the joys of a 
pure spirit devoted to God, and I endeavoured to turn 
my thoughts from worldly things. But it was hard to 
keep the tears from my eyes, which in spite of all my 
efforts would rest on the platters of savoury meats, the 
jars of fruits and melons, the piles of honeycomb and 
the heaps of saffron-scented rice that covered the long 
table at our knees. It seemed to me that I might have 
been more filled with love of God if I could have tasted 

One midnight, having awakened to say the prayer 
for that hour, I was falling asleep again when suddenly 
I felt the earth shaking. I heard the laughter of 
demons and the shrieks of women. I clutched the 
coverlets around me, staring into the darkness, and I 
saw the door slowly opening. Something red appeared 
in it ; it was the red beard of a Tartar with shaven 
head, and in an instant I was surrounded by yellow- 
skinned men who seized me in hairy claws. I screamed, 
but my throat made no sounds, and I flung myself 
frantically upon my mother-in-law, shrieking in a 
whisper, " Save me ! Save me ! " 

The poor woman held me in her arms, calling for 
lights and invoking all the saints. When the terrified 
servants ran in with lamps there were no Tartars, and 



I was very much confused. The next day my mother- 
in-law announced to all the household that I had seen 
spirits in the night. 

The following night it was a Cossack who woke me 
with his shrill whistle and, holding me down, tried to 
bury his teeth in my throat. 

It was decided to call the hakims, with whom 
Assatour-Khan discussed my malady. They said that 
fears had made the soul of my brain fly away from me, 
and they counselled that I should at once be taken to 
see spectacles which would divert me. 

One of the uncles of the household offered to take 
me to the bazaar, which that evening was blazing with 
torches in honour of a great fete. I venerated this 
uncle more than any other, because he had travelled 
in the civilized magnificent lands west of the Black 
Sea. Some years earlier he had made the journey to 
see those " countries of light " with his own eyes, and 
a reminiscence of that marvellous experience was seen 
even yet in his costume. Over his arcalouk — the 
Armenian robe of satin gathered at the waist by a 
silver girdle — he wore the coat, a European garment of 
thick cloth that would have appeared to me ugly, had 
it not been haloed by the glamour of its origin. His 
adventurous spirit quailed before the European head- 
covering, which he admitted to be monstrous in its 
hideousness and its discomfort, and he wore the 
customary tall bonnet of astrakhan, but his feet were 
clad in American shoes. These, and the coat, he con- 
sidered sufficient to show the world that he was a 
civilized man, who knew the Western world. I felt 
profoundly the honour of being accompanied by such 
a man, and when, turning to me, he said, " God grant 



you to-night such amusement as will drive the evil 
spirits from you for ever," I felt myself already restored 
to health. 

Truly there were many things that amused me, and 
this change from the severe life behind the gates to the 
light, colour and movement of the bazaar made me 
gay. It was almost impossible to get through the 
crooked streets, where the walls were like banks, too 
narrow to allow the streams of people to pass. At 
every instant we were halted ; beggars, gypsies, hand- 
some men in turbans jostled us, and at a cry the mass 
swayed this way and that to let a richly decked camel 
go by, undulating his long neck and showing the 
venomous gaze of a serpent between his half-shut lids. 

In the wider spaces we stepped carefully past heaps 
of silks, embroideries, cakes, jewelled ornaments, 
spread on little rugs beside which the merchants 
crouched. Sweetmeat-sellers bargained over trays of 
figs, dates and fruits glazed with bright red syrup that 
shone like great rubies. Here were puppets dancing 
upon a cord ; there was a fakir, cross-legged on the 
ground in a ring of spectators, making a tree grow from 
a seed, bud, blossom and fruit, where no tree was. 
Snake-charmers swayed beside their tripods, while 
bright-eyed snakes whose tongues quivered like jets of 
smoke wound themselves around bare neck and arms. 
The shrill sound of a little pipe was calling the hooded 
head of a cobra from a basket for his Indian master. 
And above the heads of the crowd, which moved like 
grain in a wind, one saw the grey back of an enor- 
mous elephant, on which monkeys were performing 

13ut it was the sound of thars and tambourines which 



drew me. We came to a platform where two musi- 
cians accompanied the movements of a little dancer 
who crouched before them. Her hair was dishevelled, 
her small face seemed aged in its youth, and while she 
sang a plaintive air her body moved with the rhythm of 
the melody, like the contortions of a wounded serpent. 
There was so much suffering, so much revolt in her 
gestures, now frantic and angry, now weary and heart- 
sick. Without saying a word she expressed all her 
experience of the villanies, the ingratitude, the cruelty 
of humanity toward one who has no longer anything 
to give. 

She finished the dance and held out her tambourine 
to the crowd, with a gesture asking only a few pennies. 
The bystanders, laughing, rewarded her with handfuls 
of refuse. A rotten egg smashed in the tambourine, to 
the joy of the crowd, a few pebbles followed, and many 
insults. She shrugged her shoulders and, as if she had 
heard nothing, coldly looked at the throng. Her eyes 
met mine, and in that instant I saw all the misery in 
which she lived, disdained by those to whom yesterday 
she was throwing her youth with open hands. She 
turned away, covered her face with her hair, and rested 
a moment before beginning another dance. 

I tugged at my uncle's sleeve, begging him to take 
me away. 

" Yes, let us go," he said. " You are right. Why 
should we look at this lost girl ? There is nothing in 
the world more impious than a dancer." 

He advanced toward a throng that surrounded a 
dozen dignified men seated on a carpet. " This will 
amuse you, my child. Here justice punishes crime 
and teaches a moral lesson to the people. It is the 



tribunal where the orders of the Vizirs are carried out 
in public." 

The crowd recognized our servant who went before 
us, and elbowing right and left it separated to give us 
the place of honour, two small pieces of dirty carpet 
beside several old men who smclled of onions. Con- 
cealed by my veils, I awaited with curiosity my first 
sight of the working of justice. 

A man, weeping and holding his right hand against 
his breast, came toward us from the row of judges. I 
thought at first that his hand was broken, but seeing 
him kissing it tenderly while the spectators laughed, 
I asked my uncle what this meant. Laughing also, 
he answered, " He is a thief, my child ; may the washers 
of corpses carry him away ! He has stolen with that 
hand ; now it will be cut off. That is a spectacle 
worth seeing ! " 

I could not believe my ears, but at that instant I 
saw another man beside a small block, laughing while 
he sharpened a hatchet. 

Trembling, I hurled myself through the crowd, 
followed by my shocked uncle. He was outraged by 
my extravagant conduct, which had cost him the sight 
of that spectacle, and very much grieved he took me 
back to the house. 

That night I awoke to find that my hands had been 
cut off at the wrists. I could not control my shrieks, 
and while my mother-in-law called upon all the saints 
to quiet me I went from one spasm of horror into 

This proved to everyone that the hakims had been 
ill-advised, and an old magician well known to the 
servants was summoned. This wrinkled old woman, 

D.S. Ill H 


bent double, came supporting herself by a staff and 
listened to the story of my strange obsessions. Evil 
spirits had taken possession of me, she said, and after 
hanging talismans about my neck, my wrists and my 
ankles, she ordered that I be led dancing to the tombs 
of the saints. The spirits, made wretched by my 
rapid movements and the sharp sounds of the cymbals, 
would leave me, and when they sought to return, the 
talismans would prevent them. 

But the evil spirits did not leave me. I returned to 
the house trembling with exhaustion, and fell into a 
stupor during which I moaned without ceasing. 

As a last resort, a remedy advised by the three 
ancient ladies was tried : without my knowing it I was 
given the urine of one of my aunts in a drink of spiced 
wine. But as this did not restore my health, the 
household despaired, and sent to a neighbouring 
province for a wise man whom every one believed to 
be a prophet. 

He was brought into the great salon where, covered 
with my veils and supported by my mother-in-law 
and aunts, I received him. He was a dervish, a hand- 
some man about thirty years old. His body was bare 
and bronzed by the sun, a camel's skin covered his 
hips. Thick curling hair made a natural turban for 
his head, and his gaze, disdaining those around him, 
was fixed on the distance. Standing before us, resting 
on his staff, he bore himself with a haughty air, not 
replying to the questions which my elders asked. 
When he spoke, his words fell from his lips like pebbles. 

" What was the day and the year of her birth ? 
What was her name in her infancy ? " He wrote the 
replies on a tablet taken from the folds of camel's 



skin. Then, stopping in front of me, he looked at me 
for a long time, and said as if to himself, " The heart 
of this child cries out for joy, song, and green fields 
under her eyes." 

Oh, how happy I was to see that some one understood 
what I lacked ! 

Without another word he went away. At the end 
of three days he returned, having studied the stars 
under which I was born. 

" Her destiny will lead her through all the lands of 
the earth. She will not remain long in any place. 
Great crowds will acclaim her name, praising her in 
many strange languages. I have seen the high houses 
where she will live. She will live for some time in a 
city without wells. She will never be sick, but gloomy 
skies will darken her spirit. The numbers 3, 7 and 9 
will never be unlucky for her." 

He departed, refusing all gifts and leaving me 
troubled. " Great crowds will acclaim her name." 
The baffling obscurity of this prediction completely 
upset my thoughts. What could it mean ? 

At last I seized upon its hidden sense. No doubt, 
though I was married, I would live a virgin until my 
death. Our church, to recompense me, would add 
my name to those of the saints, and Armenians in 
crowds would come to salute my tomb, glorifying my 
name in psalms. 

I fell asleep that night to dream quietly of fountains 
and green grass and peace. 

What was my astonishment at the news that greeted 
my waking ! The nuptial bath was being prepared 
for me ; I would be received that night in my husband's 



apartments. This was done by order of the prophet, 
who had also commanded that my religious instruction 
be stopped. Dear, dear prophet, who alone under- 
stood me ! I resolved that if at some distant day I 
should renounce a worldly life I would follow him as a 
beggar in his pilgrimages. 

Accompanied by young girls of my own age, and by 
the elderly women who were to bathe us, I was taken to 
the baths. From the court we saw only a low dome 
of coloured glass, like a bed of dull flowers. A narrow 
stairway led us underground to a star-shaped room. 
Its walls were entirely covered by tiles of enamel, 
painted and ornamented by Persian writing. These 
were the verses of Ferdousi, illustrated by famous 
artists. Had we had time to read them all, we would 
have come from the baths knowing all of Persian 

Benches covered with rugs followed the outline of 
the walls, and sitting upon them, chattering like 
sparrows, we undressed ourselves. Lengths of striped 
silk were given us, and tying them about our hips we 
went into the next room, where walls of heated stone 
surrounded a pool of warm water. We sat on the 
edge of the pool and dabbled our toes in it while the 
bathers let down our hair. Then we passed into the 
next room, as large as a mosque. 

The vaulted ceiling was supported by square columns 
of stone that radiated heat. In niches of the walls five 
lions' heads of bronze poured boiling water into five 
bronze bowls. A breath of freshness coming from the 
sixth niche indicated the kindly lion whose jaws 
yielded cold water. In the distance an oblong of 
yellow light was the doorway of a small room illu- 



minatcd by a lantern, where the bathers removed 
from the bodies of older women everything that 
reminds us of our origin from monkeys. But our 
adolescent bodies treated with contempt the mysteries 
of that room. 

Lounging upon carpeted slabs under the rays of the 
sun, golden and green and red, that pierced the 
coloured glasses of the dome, we let all the hours of 
the day trickle between our idle fingers. 

First, the bathers soaped our hair and left it for some 
time in foamy turbans on our heads. When the soap 
was washed away the hair was dipped in henna and 
left wrapped in reddening cloths. After the henna, 
which strengthens the roots, women rinsed the hair 
for an hour and covered it with curdled milk, which 
nourishes the scalp. After another interval, came 
another hour of rinsing and an hour of drying and 
combing. Then the hair, dipped in rose-water, was 

It was noon, and in another room luncheon awaited 
us on little copper platters. We went happily, eager 
to taste the cooler air and to feel beneath our bodies the 
freshness of divans covered with woven straw. To our 
dismay, the bathers feared our being chilled, and com- 
pelled us to return to the bathroom for our dessert, 
goblets of sherbet and trays of fruit. Then we rested 
for a while, stretched out on the hot rugs moist with 
steam, while the servants brought the kalian. 

For the first time I tasted the scented smoke drawn 
from the tiny bowl, through the bubbling water per- 
fumed with attar of roses, and through the long pipe to 
the silver mouthpiece at my lips. It brought me a 
delicious sensation of age and experience. I lay on the 



rugs, drawing deep breaths of the smoke and letting 
them curl from my lips to mingle with the steam in the 
rays of coloured light, and realized all the dignity of my 
fifteen years. But in a little while I felt dizzy, and 
gladly let the kalian be taken from us by the bathers. 

Our bodies were abandoned to these vigorous old 
women, girdled with white, whose bare skin shone with 
steam and perspiration. They massaged every muscle, 
made all our joints creak, beat our flesh, dipped us into 
warm water and then into cold, soaped us till we lay in 
mountains of foam, rubbed us with curdled milk, finally 
rinsed us for two hours in water scented with herbs, and 
at last, with the words " Ya Allah ! " allowed us to 
escape into the large pool of perfumed water, while they 
retired into another room. 

They had every difficulty imaginable in persuading us 
to leave the pool two hours later, because, sitting on the 
edge of the basin and eating oranges, the young girls 
were tellingsuch amusing stories that we were exhausted 
with laughter. Attracted by our gaiety, the servants 
came in from time to time to share it and to tell stories 
of their own. Night had covered the glass dome with 
darkness, and the lanterns were lighted, long before the 
bathers coaxed and scolded us into our clothes, and my 
nuptial bath was ended. 

In the little room I had shared with my mother-in- 
law the gMo diessed me in my wedding garment, warn- 
ing me that next day the old women of the household 
would take it to show to all the women of the city as 
proof of my virginity, a warning which made me 
naively regret that I had not been violated during the 
massacres, in order to escape such ceremonies. 

Finally I was led to my husband's apartments, where 



the young girls left me, alone and a little confused. I 
found myself in a small chamber draped with sombre 
cashmeres. In a corner behind a curtain of tapestry I 
saw mats and cushions arranged on the floor, and before 
them a few bottles of Shiraz wines and several silver 
platters of cold meats wreathed with flowers. These 
were revealed in the glow from the brazier, and by the 
feeble twinkle of a lamp of pierced silver that hung 
from the draped ceiling. 

It was here that my master, coming from his bath, 
would meet me alone for the first time. The idea of 
showing him a delicate courtesy at this first meeting 
came to me naturally, and I resolved to touch nothing 
in the room until he came. A tremendous weariness, 
too great to be told, had fallen upon me after the 
fatigue of the bath. I longed for a swallow of wine, but 
not wishing to disarrange the feast or the cushions, I 
resigned myself to , waiting beside the brazier. 

Painfully balancing my body upright above my folded 
legs, I watched the fantastic contours of the flames. I 
imagined the entrance of him whom I awaited. I tried 
to divine his first words, his first gestures, his first em- 
brace. At intervals my heart stopped ; each sound 
from without clutched it, then released it to beat 
hurriedly, announcing his arrival. But the door did 
not open. 

Suddenly, with a gasping flicker, the lamp went out. 
I asked myself how long I had waited. Had the lamp 
drunk all its oil, or had a careless servant forgotten to 
fill it ? I did not regret its light, for the shadows 
moved among the draperies with a mysterious air that 
pleased while it half -frightened me. It was the fire in 
the brazier that distressed me ; it slowly covered itself 



with ashes. A chill crept through the perfumed air, 
and my teeth chattered. I hugged my body with my 
arms to quiet its shivering. 

A fearful thought stabbed my heart ; the bath, filled 
with smoke, might have smothered my poor master. 
My blood turned to ice. I saw his body stretched out 
upon the slabs, his face like white marble ; I saw the 
servants carrying his shrouded body into the room of 
State, and the three ancient ladies leaning forward like 
vultures from their divan. Here he lay in his coffin ; 
the earth received him ; the rain fell upon his tomb. 

God, I have not yet had an opportunity to sin, for 
what sin of my ancestors dost Thou punish me so 
cruelly ! What have I done to Thee, that Thou art 
become a monster toward me ? Bring back my hus- 
band, rny husband without whom I cannot live, and I 
will for ever adore Thee, I swear it by Thy sun ! 

1 walked up and down the room. I crouched near 
the door, putting my ear against it and listening. 
No sound. No light. No hope. O God, he is dead ! 

The last glow from the brazier vanished, leaving me 
alone in darkness. I strained my eyes, I crept towards 
the brazier, hoping to find one coal, just one little coal 
to keep away the darkness. But the darkness was filled 
with Tartars, Tartars with foul hairy claws. O Heaven ! 
I felt them on my hair, on my veils. I saw the lights 
of their eyes. No, it was the glimmer of a candle. 
The door opened, and a ghost entered. I recognized 
him ; it was the spirit of my dead father. He entered, 
closing the door behind him. 

Crouched in the folds of the curtains, my head 
squeezed between my knees, I screamed. And while 
the scream tore from my throat as though my soul went 



with it, I felt hands on my shoulders. It was my dead 
father who dropped the candle, who seized me as if to 
strangle me, and who cried, " It is I. It is I, your 
husband ! " 

But nothing any longer existed for me. A fever had 
seized my brain, and when I opened my eyes I found 
myself on a balcony above a rose-garden. My husband, 
kneeling beside me and kissing my hand, told me ten- 
derly that two months had passed since he found me 
delirious, and that we were in a little palace of the 
Vizirs at Teheran, where he had brought me to be 


Persia : 'Teheran 

I FOUND myself, then, at Teheran with my master 
in the house of a former Vizir, killed by his rival at the 
dawn of a night of love. I found myself among the 
roses of my dreams, in the sunshine of gardens cooled 
by fountains and shaded by trees in which birds sang 
at dawn. Beside me was my young husband, grave, 
serene, handsome as a hero of the poems that had taught 
me to dream of love. His eyes were like dark pools in the 
shadow of caverns, his forehead was white as alabaster, 
his profile was chiselled like that of the antique gods 
who live to-day only in marble, majestic, severe, and 
breaking the heart with their beauty. 

I loved him. I adored him. My soul became a 
limpid stream at his feet. When I touched his cheek 
timidly with my hand he trembled, and I knew the 
rapture of a surrender so complete that it is conquest. 

When he had gone I sent quickly for mirrors. I 
longed to be beautiful for him. Fever had worn my 
cheeks, but my eyes, large, dark and brilliant, looked at 
me from the silver pool, promising me delights that 
made me blush with happiness. I sent for slaves to 
brush back the gleaming into my hair ; I sent for per- 
fumes and silks. Life poured again through my veins, 
warm and intoxicating as the rays of the sun. 

My cheeks rounded, my arms regained their curving 
lines of amber and rose. My feet danced on the garden 
paths. I was beautiful, I was young, I was loved. In 
the moonlight, on the balcony above the roses, I lay 



beside my husband, so happy that the eternal joys of 
Paradise would not have tempted me to give up one 
glance from his eyes. 

But the intoxication of his kisses was to me an intoxi- 
cation of fever, of longing. Something in him eluded 
me. I was troubled, and humble. Was I not good 
enough, was I not beautiful ? Oh, how devotedly, 
how passionately, I would try to be worthy of him ! 

" Do you not love me ? " I murmured. 

" I adore you," he said, in a thick and trembling 
voice. What was it that I could not reach ? What 
was it that I felt fleeing from me, that escaped my 
longing ? 

He talked to me of God, of the beauty of Christ Who 
had given His life for the world, and I worshipped the 
nobility of his soul and his tenderness which, like that 
of Christ, was great enough to cover all the earth. His 
eyes were lighted with visions, he saw a beauty beyond 
all the beauty that I knew, and I remained silent by his 
side. As for me, I was only a small wife, a woman ; I 
worshipped God best in His sunshine, His dawns, His 
small birds and flowers and His perfect handiwork, my 

I was happy. I was so happy ! God had given me 
so much that all my life would not repay Him. Morn- 
ing and evening and before every meal, while my hus- 
band prayed, I thanked God in my heart. He had 
given me so much. What was the little, little thing I 
lacked ? Perhaps it was the complete love of God 
which should fill my heart. But my heart was already 
so filled with love for my husband, and surely God 
meant me to love the husband he had given me ? 

I was quite well again, all my body was filled with joy 



of living. But a strange fever consumed my soul, and 
at night I lay awake, burning with it, like a traveller in 
the desert tortured by thirst. 

My husband wished me to know our neighbours. 
So, although I loved my gardens, where swans as white 
as snow and as black as ebony drifted across the smooth 
pools beneath cascades of willow branches, where the 
paths were bordered with flowers and the sound of 
running water accompanied the songs of birds, although 
I should have been for ever contented to stay in them 
and in my dusky rooms draped with cashmeres, where 
I lay on divans soft as the breast of doves and little 
tables inlaid with silver and pearl offered me, in copper 
jars, heaps of ice-cooled grapes and pomegranates and 
figs, I must leave them all to visit strange people. 
Dressed in my robes of soft silks, adorned with all my 
jewels, I covered myself with veils, and preceded by 
servants I ventured from my gate to the gate of the 
garden that adjoined ours. 

It was the garden of General Sasso-Tates, an 
Armenian " man of the world," that is to say, in Persia 
as in Europe, a man who moved easily in Society in his 
own city. He was not only a military man, he was also 
a merchant who dealt in rugs, old potteries, ancient 
silver and gold ornaments. More than that, he was one 
of the most successful usurers of Persia. He was well 
received everywhere, because in everything that did not 
concern money he had the best of hearts, being always 
in a good humour and ready to drink with anyone. 
His two oldest sons were already Cossacks, and always 
wore their arms — rifles on their shoulders, daggers and 
revolvers at their belts. These weapons were removed 
only while their wearers slept or ate. At dinner, when 



we assembled around the cloth, the two young men 
unfastened their belts and laid them aside, so that the 
revolvers and knives would not bother them while they 
squatted to eat. They were hearty men, who laughed 
easily, and while we women spoke little — and I did not 
find the wife of General Sasso-Tates, mother of his ten 
children, very sympathetic to my younger spirits — I 
enjoyed well enough a dinner in her house. 

As etiquette required, I returned her calls from time 
to time, and visited a few other women of the exclusive 
Armenian harems. 

But I always returned gladly to my own house to 
await my husband, sun of my existence, whose glances, 
like the rays of the sun, both warmed and parched me. 

We had been together six weeks. It was dawn. The 
first twittering of the birds had awakened me, to find 
myself alone. Unable to sleep again I rose, bathed my 
face and hands in perfumed cool water, and put on a 
simple gown of thin white lawn. From the balcony I 
saw my husband walking in the garden. I hesitated, 
and then went to meet him. 

He stood beside a little fountain, where white marble 
loves played in the spray. When he saw me, he turned 
his head away, and I stopped, wounded, ready to flee 
back into the house, but before I could do so he was 
coming toward me. In a firm voice he told me that 
he had a sacred task to accomplish. He wished to 
speak to me about it. He led me to a marble bench 
beneath a rose-tree. 

I knew, he said, that the world is filled with crime 
and injustices. The hands of men are cruel against 
their brothers ; hate and envy and greed fill their 
hearts. The poor die of hunger, the rich murder their 



own souls with luxury. If the world is to be saved, it 
must be re-created, it must be made new again by the 
power of Christian love. 

The time was approaching when this would be done. 
Justice would come. Terrible as an army of the Lord, 
justice would dethrone kings, drive the nobles from 
their palaces, destroy the idle, the cruel and the self- 
indulgent. There would be no more kings nor slaves, 
no more palaces, no more temples nor mosques. 
Cleansed of all human passions, simple in spirit and 
pure in heart, mankind would taste the joys of 
Paradise. The earth would become God's heaven. 

This idea overwhelmed me. I sat motionless, un- 
able to speak or think, and I saw the rose-petals falling 
slowly, with little lifts and quivers, toward the earth. 

" Soon," he continued, " we shall abandon this 
luxury, I shall be free. I shall go to rouse unhappy 
souls and to awaken their just anger against the miseries 
and crimes of the world. The righteous anger of man 
is the flaming weapon of God. Its fire will devour this 
rotten world, and from the ashes will rise another world 
in which the first shall be last, and the last first." 

" When ? " I asked, trembling. 

" Soon," he replied. 

My paradise vanished like a mist, and with it all the 
joy in my heart. The few words that I had understood 
terrified me. I melted into tears. 

" O God ! " I cried, " Thou Who existest in 
Heaven to accomplish our desires, make me blind before 
this calamity ! Hide me under the earth ! I would 
not know how to live with a perfect humanity. I love 
the world that Thou hast created, the world Thou 
deignest to support as it is. O Celestial Commander, 



leave me my master, my cushions, my dear negroes with 
gentle eyes who kiss my garments when I caress their 
children ! Do not take from me my gardens, my 
roses, my birds ! O God, it is so little that I ask of all 
Thy great world ! " 

But God was deaf. And I learned that my dear 
master, whom I adored, had left his parent's home by 
the door of marriage only that he might be free to 
begin his pilgrimage for the salvation of the world. 
As he was only nineteen years old, and as unmarried 
sons, of whatever age, are always considered part of 
their father's household and subservient to the wishes 
of the elders, he had been unable to start on his holy 
mission, of which Assatour-Khan would not hear two 
words. Only marriage would free him. As master of 
his own household, he could do whatever he desired. 
That was the reason he had ceased to talk of his plan 
for saving the world and begun to speak of marriage. 
That was the reason he had married me. He had not 
thought that he would love me. Our love had been a 
temptation that had delayed his soul upon its way, but 
he had conquered it. 

Alone upon the floor of our darkened rooms, I wept 
until I had no tears. My heart was a broken fountain. 

In a few days my master called our slaves together, 
and dismissed them all. They were like sheep deprived 
of a shepherd. Old Tahia, whose shrunken black hands 
had combed my hair and tried to soothe my agony, 
prostrated herself at his feet and begged him not to 
deliver her to liberty. He allowed her to remain with 

" As for you," he told me, " you shall return to my 
father's house at Rcsht." 



But I also fell at his feet and begged him not to con- 
demn me to that. I prayed him not to send me back 
to that house whose very memory made me shudder 
with cold. I begged him with tears to be so kind as to 
leave me to die by the roadside, so that I might die in 
the sun, and free. 

Weeping with me, he granted my prayer. He gave 
me a handful of the gold for which he had sold all his 
property, intending to devote it all to the salvation of 
the world. As gold meant nothing to either of us, I 
did not think of it again. I thought only of my 
beloved husband. And he, my husband whom I wor- 
shipped, led us into the poor quarter, installed us in a 
bare hut, and left for the frontier of Turkey to save 

Nothing existed any more for me, neither the sky nor 
the earth. In losing him, I had lost the light of my 
eyes. There remained only one thing to do, to die. 
But how ? I would drown myself in a pond. No ; 
the djinns live there and make the dead their mis- 
tresses. A ball, a little round ball of steel, that would 
be better. The house of General Sasso-Tates was full 
of arms. . . . 

Tahia arranged my hair. The smooth black curves 
of it lay like strokes of ink above my feverish eyes. I 
painted my lips, my cheeks. I clasped my bracelets on 
my arms. Tahia straightened the folds of my veils. 
We went to the house of General Sasso-Tates. We 
arrived just at the end of dinner, and I was asked to 
share their coffee. The Cossack sons had laid aside their 
belts ; a heap of knives and revolvers lay in a corner 
of the room. Unobserved, I took one of the revolvers. 



I came back to the hut, the hard shape of the revolver 
pressed against my side, beneath the veils. Alone, I 
held it in my hand. One instant of resolution, and it 
would end all my pain. 

I pressed it against the beating of my heart. A 
tumult filled me, like the roar of a mob. A million 
little voices clamoured in my blood, in my body, crying 
out against death, shrieking to live, only to live. I 
pulled the trigger, and felt myself falling. 

Some one was gently caressing my cheeks. Was it my 
master ? I opened my eyes. It was my dog. I shall 
never forget his look ; humanity, such as I had imagined 
it to be, was in his eyes. 

" Why have you done this ? " he was saying to me. 
" I love you." 

Some one had extracted the ball from my chest ; 
some one had carried me to the hospital — the hospital, 
dreaded by all Asiatics as the tomb itself. Bare white 
walls were around me. I lay motionless and silent. I 
did not wish to live, and the ways of God seemed to 
me meaningless. 

The door opened, and I saw approaching the comical 
silhouette of General Sasso-Tates. His bald head 
shone like the egg of a roc, his fiery moustache hung 
almost to his silver belt, his uniform was covered with 
medals, his hand on the hilt of his sword. 

He seemed deeply moved. " Now, now," he said, 
" do not speak, it is forbidden you. Listen, my 
eaglet," he continued, sitting on the edge of my bed. 
" I am an old soldier experienced in combats. There 
is nothing more sublime to me than courage, my little 
vulture. It is I — I, the General Sasso-Tates — who 
says it. You are a tiger, a lion, a very panther, and if 

d.s. 127 1 


you were dead, I would make a funeral for you that 
would surpass all imagination. I would take your body 
into my own house, I would cover it with the most 
expensive fabrics, I would hire innumerable mourners, 
and all the priests of Teheran. After you were buried, 
for the funeral meats I would sacrifice a hundred sheep. 
In my gardens a feast lasting seven days would be served 
to the poor, and their prayers would bribe the angels 
to find a place for you beside the Great Judge and all 
the Trinity. But " — and he sighed with sincere 
regret — " you are not dead." 

His expression was so grieved, his desolation at find- 
ing himself deprived of this unique occasion to show 
the world his great generosity was so profound, that a 
laugh contracted my poor chest. Drops of blood 
appeared upon my lips. 

" God, Christ and all the saints ! " cried the general, 
turning pale. And he fled. 

Later I was told that General Sasso-Tates had pre- 
sented himself at the hospital as my protector, but that 
on being shown the bill for the care given me he had 
uttered a long discourse, seasoned with sighs, declaring 
that he had suffered a great reverse of fortune, and that 
he would soon be on the streets begging, with his wife 
and children. After this, he left without paying a 
penny, and was not seen again. But I had no re- 
proaches for him, for that laugh had mysteriously 
restored to me a willingness to live. 

I lay alone all day in the hospital. The very name 
of this place, the only hospital in Teheran, was abhorred 
by the people, and with reason, since one received there 
very little encouragement to live. I found nothing but 



emptiness, heat, and the unbearable glare of the un- 
shaded sun on whitewash. A jar of water was left 
beside my bed by the attendants, who lived in another 
house at some little distance, where they slept or 
amused themselves during the day. At morning and 
evening they came to bring me food from their own 
house. I passed the day with my head beneath the 
blankets, which were my only shade, and from time to 
time I dipped my fingers in the water-jar and moistened 
my lips. 

There was only one other patient, a little negro nine 
years old, who had been bought by the wife of an am- 
bassador to Persia during a visit in Koum. After hav- 
ing him castrated, the lady had taken the little eunuch 
to Europe with her, so that she might appear in Paris 
and London as a real Sheherazade. 

At the end of a few weeks he spat blood, and was sent 
to die in Persia. 

I pitied this little negro, so quickly destroyed by the 
civilized countries, and tried to cheer him with con- 
versation. He avowed that he had so hated everything 
European that he had stubbornly refused to eat their 
dishes or to speak a word of the barbarous language. 
He described to me the coldness of everything in those 
lands ; the eyes, the voices, the manners of the people 
were cold, the houses were cold, the streets were 
covered with snow, and even the sky, in which the sun 
never shone, was a cold grey. This sky often descended 
into the streets, so that the air itself was grey. One 
could not sec ; a cold breath as of the grave chilled 
even the cold blood of Europeans ; Death himself 
walked there upon the earth. 

One day his voice had hardly strength enough to 



reach me, and seeing that he was so nearly dying, I said 
to him, " Perhaps your heart wishes something, Kara. 
Tell it to me, I am your sister." 

" Take me to Koum. I want to die near my mother," 
he said. 

But this was impossible. He sighed, then, leaning on 
his elbow, he fixed his naive gaze upon me and said, 
" Then please tell these French that I shall soon die, 
and ask them to take away the bitter liquids that they 
force me to swallow night and day, and let me eat some 

That night, after many supplications, the attendants 
finally consented to let the little Kara die as he wished, 
while eating some kebab. 

When an old negro carried away his body wrapped 
in rags, I, too, like little Kara, felt a profound hatred 
for all the great ladies of Europe. 

The intolerable sunlight made even the contours of 
the walls dance. The air, agitated by waves of heat, 
appeared like boiling water. In the hospital there 
were no cool underground vaults to shield one from 
the terrible gaze of the sun. Tottering, I crept from 
my bed and crawled in search of some refuge. An 
operating-table furnished it. Tahia draped it with 
blankets, making a tent in which I crouched. The 
attendants, coming at night, made no objection to my 
plan. I spent my days in this shelter, where I found 
shade, fresh water and fruits. A ray of light passing 
through the drapery fell upon the love-poem of Leily 
and Medjnoun which I read. Suddenly I heard steps 
in the room. 

They were those of a young Persian woman with 



features as clear-cut as those of a mummy. An expres- 
sion of great fatigue shadowed her noble face. I recog- 
nized " The Queen of the Crowns," celebrated for the 
great beauty which she was willingly destroying by the 
opium that made her forget her sorrows. Her story 
was known to all Persia. 

She was a Persian princess, closely related to the 
Shah. According to the custom of her people, when 
she was eleven years old she was married to a young 
prince of the court, and taken to his house to live until 
she should be old enough to become in reality his wife. 
Surrounded by the women of his household, in the 
gardens and apartments reserved for their use, she 
heard nothing but praises of his beauty, and nourished 
her heart on dreams of him and his love. From time 
to time, careless and handsome as a young god, he 
came into the indoroun, and reclining on cushions 
allowed her to serve him fruits or tea, while she, trem- 
bling with happiness beneath her veils, hardly dared 
utter a word. 

At the end of two years, as was customary, her hus- 
band was told that she was now old enough to be his 
wife, and after the nuptial baths and an evening of 
feasting and music she was led at midnight to his 
apartments and left alone with him. But the prince, 
a young gallant of twenty-three years, was not at all 
interested in the timid child ten years younger than 
he. Accustomed to the blooming flowers of love, the 
courtesans and dancers of the court, he saw nothing 
beautiful in the bud that had not yet spread its petals. 
He accepted her with every courtesy, and continued his 
usual life of gaiety outside the walls of his house. 

The young wife, left neglected, suffered such tor- 


ments as demons are too tenderhearted to inflict. 
She loved him, while he, too careless for scorn, did not 
think of her at all. Too proud to plead with him, she 
endeavoured to hide her anguish, and to endure his 
love for others without a protest. But when, after 
days of loneliness, she saw him returning happy and 
beautiful as the sun, her passionate heart could no 
longer bear its suffering. She upbraided him with 
terrible words and cries, threatening, in her rage against 
life that so tormented her, to kill him and to kill her- 
self. These storms of fury startled and annoyed the 
young prince, who found himself married to a whirlwind 
that upset his whole household. 

At length he perceived a happy road by which he 
might escape such turmoil and again live in peace. 
Pretending to adore her, he remained for some weeks at 
her side, lavishing upon her all the tenderness of love, 
while he taught her the delights of the drug that 
destroys realities and fills the mind with fantastic and 
delicious dreams. Shown the way by a hand whose 
very shadow she loved, his young wife soon learned to 
give her days and her nights to opium, and the prince, 
satisfied that now she would no longer trouble him, 
returned to his courtesans. 

The prince had not been deceived ; his wife no 
longer made his homecomings unpleasant. Now, for 
ever convinced that the real world was a desert, and 
the hope of happiness a mirage luring humanity to 
greater torments, she gave herself entirely to the drug. 
Lying on her cushions with the pipe by her side, she 
was tranquil and calm, while her husband pursued his 

Thus four years passed,and the princess was a woman. 



One day her husband, returning from a long absence, 
passed through her apartment and was struck motion- 
less by her beauty. She had bloomed like a flower. 
Her body was rounded and graceful, her lips red and 
voluptuous, her dark eyes pools of shadows. Opium 
had left on her features the poetic traces of dreams 
and visions unshared by others. The prince passion- 
ately took her in his arms and covered her face with 
kisses. She remained as indifferent to his embrace as 
a flower. Chilled by her coldness, he released her and 
left her apartments. 

But from that moment he was unable to erase her 
image from his mind. He abandoned his friends, dis- 
missed his dancers, and remained in his own house, 
trying by every art to win the love of this woman who 
had awakened his first real tenderness. He adored her, 
tenderly, passionately, hopefully and despairingly. 
He filled her rooms with flowers, he covered her with 
jewels, he sent her verses written by his own hand ; at 
last he knelt at her feet and wept. But the proud 
princess remained indifferent. 

The prince at last made a desperate attempt to 
awaken her old love. Hoping to melt her coldness 
by arousing her former jealousy, he announced to her 
that in accordance with Mussulman custom he was 
about to take other wives. She listened to him with- 
out saying a word. And the prince, convinced that 
a rival beneath her own roof wouldrc-awaken all her old 
passion, did in fact marry a second young and beautiful 

But the Queen of the Crowns, while the musicians 
were playing at the marriage-feast in the house of the 
new bride, went before the Kadi and divorced herself 

J 33 


from her husband in the Mussulman manner, simply by 
declaring that she was unhappy with him and wished 
to return to her parents. That evening, when the 
bride entered the house of the prince, the Queen of the 
Crowns met her on the threshold. 

" I give you the keys of my house," she said court- 
eously to the new-comer. " Hereafter it is yours, 
yours alone." And she went out through the gates and 
returned to the house of her mother. The prince, who 
still loved her, never saw her again. 

" Their heart is in their pipes," she said one day, 
speaking of men, and this saying was repeated through 
all Teheran, accompanied by the laughter of the 

It was she whom I saw standing in the bare room of 
the hospital, and it seemed to me in that first glance 
that her dark eyes and haughty lips expressed all the 
sorrow of the world and all the pride with which it is 

" What a bizarre house. No one here, not even a 
djinn," she said. 

" What do you seek, Khanoum ? " I asked, parting 
the blankets that fell about the operating-table. 

She looked at me intently. " It is you whom they 
call Vadjih-el-Saltaneh ? " 

" It is I, Khanoum." 

" The very dogs, at this hour, have a shaded corner. 
What mother gave you birth to such a life ? " she said 
to me. 

" My mother is far away, Khanoum, and believes 
me happy. I pray that she may die believing it." 

" Peace be with her, and may her shadow cover 
you," she replied, touched. She sat beside me and said 


that she had heard in the baths the story of my hus- 
band's departure and my wound, and she had come to 
say to me, " You are a stranger in this city where I have 
my home and gardens. Come and share them with me." 

The offer was made so simply that it was impossible 
to reply that I did not know her. 

" You will have my subterranean rooms, where you 
may bathe in pools of fresh water," she added, to per- 
suade me. The very words seemed like dew, in the 
heat which was consuming me. " Come, I will take 
you to the house of my mother, where I live." 

" Are there men in your house ? " 

" I have four brothers ; three of them have for a long 
time lived in the biroun. The sight of them will never 
offend you, Khanoum. The fourth is a child who still 
lives in the indoroun with the women." 

I still hesitated, but divining the cause of my doubts, 
she said : " In inviting you to my house, I trample 
beneath my feet the prejudices of my Mussulman faith. 
I hope that you will do the same with the prejudices of 
your religion." 

" Khanoum," I replied, " all of us, Christians and 
Mussulmans, are the children of the same God, and the 
prophets of all religions are — the prophets." 

I said this in politeness, but while I was saying it I 
felt that there might not be, after all, anything really 
extraordinary in my being a guest in the house of a 
Mussulman. Then I remembered that all that comes 
to us is sent by the will of God, and thanking the Queen 
of the Crowns I prepared myself to be presented to 
her mother. 

An old porter, his arms folded upon his breast, bowed 



respectfully before us, and opened the iron doors. I 
found myself under the sombre arches which lead 
beneath the biroun to the secluded inner gardens and 
apartments of the indoroun of a sumptuous Persian 
house. The queen invited me to mount a few steps, 
and we emerged into the sunshine and scents of a large 
garden murmurous with fountains. 

A man ! Eternal God ! Had she then lied to me ? 

" Khanoum," I stammered, faltering. 

" Calm yourself, by Allah," she said to me. " It is 
my little brother Nadir." 

The child of whom she had spoken was a slender 
young man of seventeen years, who lay stretched 
on a couch. His beauty impressed me deeply. His 
almond eyes, beneath sorrowful brows, shone like the 
mystic eyes of a dervish. A bluish pallor softened the 
ardent colour of his cheeks. He rose and saluted me 

The Queen of the Crowns and I passed beneath the 
colonnades that curved around three sides of the garden. 
The floor beneath our feet, the wall of the house, and 
the vaulted ceiling were a blaze of rich mosaics. On 
the threshold of one of the many-arched doorways the 
queen's mother, Envar-ed-Doule, waited to receive 
me. She embraced me as though she were welcoming 
a daughter ; a kindliness great enough to cover all the 
world's sorrows and frailties was expressed in her 
wrinkled face. Her first words were of her son Nadir. 
" Alas, he is consumed by a fever as terrible as the 
breath of the desert. For the first time in three weeks 
he has left his bed, and he has done so in order to 
welcome you to our house." 

" Khanoum, I am a messenger of happiness," I 



said to comfort her. " Your son will soon be well." 

" The goodness of the All-Merciful is great as His 
shadow upon us," she sighed. " May it be He Who 
speaks through your mouth." 

Indeed, from that day Nadir no longer kept to his 
bed. His aspect was feverish, but he held himself 
bravely on his feet. He thought no longer of death, 
but dressed himself with care and joined us in our cool 
underground retreats. He recited the verses of the 
Koran, spoke to me of Mohammed, of the Temple of 
Mecca, of the Miraculous Black Stone of Kaaba, and I 
saw his desire to see me haloed with the light of the 

His recovery was believed to be due to a magic force 
which destiny had sent him in my person. I was the 
idol of his mother, the fetish of all the family ; every 
one called me " Asiz." * 

When, hesitating to accept so much care and love 
from this household, I spoke of returning to the hut in 
which my husband had left me, the queen's mother 
with tears begged me to stay. " The evil spirits will 
again take possession of Nadir. He feels himself over- 
powered, life has no taste on his lips, and everything 
wearies him. Calm comes to him only when he hears 
your steps." 

Carrying thus the good genius of Nadir, how could 
I leave him to the cruelties of his evil one ? The 
mother's zeal, which kept me always in the house, 
exasperated the Queen of the Crowns, who liked to dis- 
tract herself by visits to her friends, but I was content 
in the spacious underground rooms in which we passed 
the days. 

1 Pet. 


In the evening, when every one else was sleeping on 
little couches in the middle of the gardens, the queen 
and I mounted to the roof where our rugs were spread. 
The tops of trees encircled this vast bed, protecting 
us from indiscreet eyes. The velvet of a star-brocaded 
sky was our ceiling, the frogs in distant pools sang to us 
a rustic chant often interrupted by the calls of owls. 
It seemed to me then that all the earth was singing to 
the stars, and that the scented air was the breath of 
angels. Ah, nights of Persia, delicious and intoxicating 
as wine cooled in snow, shall I ever know you again ? 

At dawn, Nadir came to scatter on our cushions 
armfuls of roses, whose thorns awakened us at our 
slightest movement. Kneeling beside the couch he 
would kiss tenderly the ends of my hair, while I lifted 
my eyelids to give him the morning smile. Then the 
queen and I descended into the garden to plunge into 
a pool, and went back to our underground rooms where 
the servants brought us tea. 

Sick, feeble and tormented, my moods altered every 
hour of the day. Sometimes I would laugh aloud, 
listening to stories told by the queen, in which her 
witty and ironical comments sparkled like jewels. 
Again, I would lose myself in silence, thinking of my 
master. Plunged in a black sadness I asked myself, 
" Where is he ? Is he happy ? Will he come back 
to me some day ? How could he have a heart that 
would abandon me, who lived only for him ? " 

And with my face hidden in my hands I fell upon the 
cushions, refusing to eat or to drink, unable to reply 
to questions except with my tears. 

" Donia de rouze ast, the universe is two days," the 
queen would say to me. 



She meant that no sorrow is great because death 
effaces everything. 

To divert me, the queen resumed the informal fetes 
which made the hours of darkness gay. Our friends 
came with their servants to pass the night by the edge 
of our pools. The moon was the yellow lantern that 
lighted the gardens. Under its beams the leaves of the 
poplars became black and silver, the flowers lost their 
colours, and the spray of the fountains was silver mist. 
In our light robes, bleached by the magic light of the 
colours of faded paintings, we lounged upon the grass. 
We told little stories, we plunged naked into the pools 
and played there, tossing handfuls of the sparkling 
water at each other like showers of light. Shaking out 
our long wet hair, we lay again on the grass. Some one 
sang, another played the thar. And at dawn, after 
having listened for a long time to the melancholy 
voices of the singers, we fell asleep. 

But between the old moon and the new our gardens 
lost their light, and we suspended these nocturnal 
fetes. In order to give me complete repose, the queen 
left me for a few days in solitude. 

The heat of the ground was like that of ovens. 
Lying on mats, naked under a veil, I rested my fore- 
head against a vase filled with grapes, where a few pieces 
of ice drowned in water made me dream of cold unreal 
lands. That heat ! What lover could give one such 
languor, what embraces impose such submission ? The 
kisses of the sun were more intoxicating than all the 
kisses gathered in all the alcoves. I thought of my 
grandmothers who devoted themselves to the adoration 

J 39 


of Ahouramazde. They knew, also, that no lover gave 
more of ecstasy than the sun, none ! 

The voice of Tahia came to rouse me. " A messen- 
ger wishes to speak to you, Khanoum." 

I wrapped myself from head to foot. The messen- 
ger entered, followed by several slaves carrying a sort 
of pagoda covered with flowers. 

" My master (here followed a multitude of titles, 
ending with " Prince Sword-of-the-Empire ") would 
like to present himself personally before Khanoum 
(and he described me by a dozen titles among which I 
recognized only Vadjih-el-Saltaneh). My master asks 
that she deign to receive him to-morrow. My master 
begs her humbly to accept these flowers, dust beneath 
her feet, which he has himself gathered in the gardens 
of his father (he named one of the late Shahs of Persia)." 

I knew well that, by all Christian morality, I should 
refuse to receive a stranger. I knew that I should reply 
in words, postponing the visit to an indefinite time, 
thus masking my refusal before his servants. But 

I was weary in that garden alone. My mind was 
languorous with dreams, my blood was warmed by the 
caresses of the sun, and the masses of flowers made me 
dizzy with their perfume. What crime would I com- 
mit in receiving in a dignified manner so noble a prince, 
who sent such pretty flowers ? I was only afraid of the 
Christians. But they did not know where I lived, and 
seeing this palanquin of flowers entering beneath 
Mussulman portals they would be far from imagining 
that it was I who was thus being tempted toward the 
abysses of hell. They would be indifferent to the fall 
of a Mussulman woman, they whose virtue would make 
them cruelly punish, in the name of Christ, a Christian. 



Makhlas ! 

I had the courage to reply, " In the name of God, 
say to your master that I obey his commands." 

But I confess, my heart was beating quickly. It was 
not at all my conjugal conscience that troubled me. 
No. Was I not dismissed, as free as a freed slave ? 
But a severe voice was saying to me : " What ! You, 
daughter of priests and of the patriarchs, you will 
to-morrow look into the eyes of a Mussulman, perhaps 
hear the voice of a Mussulman speaking of love ? " 

But another voice, much sweeter, without doubt 
that of Satan, beguiled me to the sacrilege. Trem- 
bling beneath my veils I saw the slaves set down the 
flowers and follow the messenger from the gardens. 

" Quick, Tahia, give me one by one these beautiful 
flowers, that I may read the message he has sent ! " 

One blood-red flower dominated all the others. 
It was the rose of Assyria, the emblem of amorous 
incantations, a flower that blooms for seven years. It 
spoke to me of a heart filled with love. Then Tahia 
gave me a bouquet of wild flowers which formed in 
Arabic characters my name interlaced with his. I put 
it against my cheek, and lying in the heaps of scented 
petals I drifted into a vague dream. 

My first movement on awaking was to press the 
bouquet to my lips, plunging my face into it to inhale 
all its perfume. A living thing moved beneath my 
lips. Horror ! It was a monster that crept among 
the flowers, crawling with innumerable legs. 

" Tahia ! Tahia ! " I screamed, nearly fainting, 
throwing the bouquet from me. 

" May the universe fall upon our heads ! " she cried, 
seeing the monster. She seized it with the tongs and 



threw it into a brazier. " Permit me, Khanoum, to go 
at once to ask the wise man Seied-ed-Dine to explain 
this evil omen. Perhaps, by the power of the talis- 
mans, he may be able to guard us against the danger." 

" Go, Tahia, go at once ! " 

She soon returned, riding into the garden on her 
mule, and without waiting even to dismount she said, 
" The Seied wishes more time to explain to us this 
fearful omen. He is Soleiman himself," she added. 
" He says that all the mysteries of the universe reflect 
themselves in his spirit as the sky reflects itself in our 

Toward evening the messenger of Seied-ed-Dine 
arrived, bearing his reading of the omen. Destiny was 
forewarning me of the fatal end of the love which was 
soliciting mine. The person who sent those flowers 
would never realize his hopes of winning me. Hasar- 
payi, the thousand-legged creature (for so he is called, 
though he has but forty) was the symbol of a woman 
with a base soul and a perfidious heart. She would 
wipe from his heart the image of me. The monster, of 
a species that inhabit water, indicated that this woman 
lived beyond the seas. She would be a Frenchwoman. 

I commanded Tahia to keep silence upon this sub- 
ject before the servants of Prince Sword-of-the- 
Empire. For in spite of every decree of Fate I was 
resolved to receive him the following day. 

The sun was dying on the tree-tops when Prince 
Sword-of-the-Empire arrived. He was a handsome 
man who had seen about thirty years ; he was dashing, 
gentle, melancholy. I received him fully veiled, so 
that all he could see of me was a hint of curved brows, 



the lines of shoulders and arms and my hands, whose 
finger-tips were rosy with henna. Knowing that a well- 
bred woman in conversation with a gentleman must not 
say more than " yes " and " no," I did nothing but 
repeat these words for two hours. 

Under the pretext of reciting poetic stanzas upon 
the flowers and the birds that surrounded me, he 
addressed to me delicate tendernesses that affected me 
like a drug. He departed, leaving me in a deep reverie. 
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, why didst thou not appear 
before me then, with all thy temples and lighted 
torches, to shield me from the delicious temptation 
of my thoughts ? 

The following morning Tahia announced the visit 
of an old woman. She came in, soberly but richly 
dressed in dark silks. Sitting on the cushions and look- 
ing at me with bright eyes buried in wrinkles, she talked 
for an hour upon different subjects. At last she asked 
me if I were willing to marry a Mussulman, rich and of 
high family, who would impose upon me merely the 
outward forms of Islam. 

I did not ask her of what Mussulman she spoke. The 
idea of being torn to pieces by the Christians on my 
marriage day turned my heart to ice. 

" Never, Khanoum, never ! May God paralyse my 
tongue ! How could I renounce even the forms of the 
religion of my fathers ? For the love of the greatest 
Padishah, I would not condemn myself in the other 
world to the eternal clutches of Satan." 

She saluted me respectfully and departed, downcast. 

In spite of this reply, I received a letter from him. 
Knowing that some day I must go to Europe to be 
entirely cured of my wound, he said that he was 

d.s. 143 K 


departing to await me in those lands where " The 
prophets do not hinder mortals from loving each other." 
(Thus he spoke to me of the Occident, which does not 
know even the meaning of the word " love " !) In 
fact, he soon left Persia to go to Paris. 

This adventure was something with which to amuse 
the queen when she returned. Like all the women of 
the indorouns, she loved the intrigues of love, and she 
was in despair to see this romance so quickly ended. 

" Why did he mix the wretched prophets with his 
love ? " she said, shrugging her shoulders. " Our souls 
are theirs ; our hearts are our own." 

I listened in silence. Such words troubled my 
Christian faith, in which love, the soul, the heart, the 
body — all are lost in the one word " God," which 
paralysed all my human emotions. 

" I would have made my house a nest for your love," 
she continued, lamenting. " I would have hidden you 
so well from the indiscreet that Allah himself would not 
have been able to discover you. Only my eyes would 
have contemplated you. Oh, of what beauty you have 
deprived my eyes ! " 

And she began to tell me the story of the birth of 
Prince Sword-of-the-Empire. It was not known who 
was his father or his mother. Without doubt he was 
the son of one of the sixty princesses of the indoroun of 
Padi-Shah. In any case, the Book of Gold in which 
the grand eunuch registers the loves of the Shah and 
the names of the women honoured by his visits attri- 
buted him to one who was called his mother. 

" But then, is she not his mother ? " 

" No, she is sterile, the whole city knows it. Her 
situation in the palace was delicate. She was obliged 



to have a son at all costs. She feigned to be pregnant 
during the months. At the end of that time, accord- 
ing to custom, all the princesses were gathered about 
her bed to witness the birth of the child, when an old 
midwife entered, carrying two baskets. She offered 
to the princesses one of the baskets, asking each to 
choose an herb with which to perfume the bath of the 
new-born. The first who put in her fingers shrieked ; 
two snakes had seized her hand. She shook them off 
upon the floor and fled, followed by all the others, 

" The old woman then brought from the other 
basket the child, stupefied with opium, and gave it to 
the princess in bed. When she had killed the snakes 
she called back the princesses, and nothing remained 
for them but to congratulate the mother. The grand 
eunuch had every interest in certifying to Padi-Shah 
the royal origin of the child. Prostrating himself on 
his stomach before the throne, he announced the joyful 
news and wished the Shah as many offspring as there 
are stars, and he received the gift of a garment from the 
royal wardrobe." 

This was, according to rumour, the origin of Sword- 

I remained a long time lying upon my cushions, 
reflecting upon the blind mazes of this life, in which 
there are so many paths all leading to unknown ends. 
And, I confess it, I was melancholy when I remembered 
the prophecy of Scied-cd-Dinc and reflected that per- 
haps already, in the unimaginably beautiful gardens of 
an indoroun in Paris, the prince was sitting with the 
woman who had wiped his image from my heart. 

It happened, many years later, that we did meet in 



Paris. At the time when I received him in the gardens 
of the queen, he had a concubine who had blessed him 
with a son. He took this woman and their child with 
him to Paris, in order to give his son, Emerald, a Euro- 
pean education. But when he reached Paris, before 
he had even left the station, a Frenchwoman ap- 
proached him and said that for three days she had had 
nothing to eat ; dying of hunger, she begged him to 
help her. 

As a good Mussulman, he could not refuse charity to 
the poor, his brothers. He told his concubine what 
the woman had said, and both were astonished to learn 
that such misfortune could befall anyone in this most 
splendid city of the world. The Persian woman, deeply 
affected, wept and clasped the woman in her arms, 
saying that Allah was good to allow them to begin their 
life in a foreign land by an act of charity. The stranger 
was at once invited to share their dinner. Afterwards 
they would themselves have taken her to her own 
door, but to their amazement they learned that she 
had no home. Therefore they kept her in their hotel. 

The next morning she offered herself to them as a 
governess for their son, and in three days she had 
replaced the concubine, who was sent back to Persia. 
The Frenchwoman even tried to persuade the prince 
to give her conjugal honours, but here she found an 
unexpected resistance. However, without waiting for 
such formalities, she ordered the concierge to speak of 
her as Princess Sword-of-the-Empire. 

I called upon them one day and found them in a 
garret, where she was teaching him French economy, 
finding his way of living too wasteful for his little means. 
The Princess Sword-of-the-Empire was washing dishes, 



the little Prince Emerald was sweeping the floor, and 
the Prince himself was rocking a cradle in which were 
twins. I tried to conceal the pain I felt at rinding this 
prince of Persian legend in a setting so little legendary. 
He found it necessary to excuse himself. 

" Yes, Khanoum," he said to me, " life is a black 
abyss. By threatening to commit suicide, she has 
destroyed me. You know the heart of a Persian ; I am 
its victim." 

And even I, alas ! had not saved myself from the cruel 
fate of the dreamers of Asia lost in the harshness of the 
Occident. If I escape it for a few rare instants, it is 
my cymbals and my tambourine that evoke for me again 
the gardens and the dreams of my East. 

Could the wise man Seied-ed-Dine have foretold to 
me, while I lay on the queen's scented cushions, the 
ending of my own romance ! But the knowledge 
would have been only a serpent among the flowers, for 
no one can alter the mysterious writings of Destiny. 

We were invited, the queen and I, to spend an even- 
ing at the home of Khanoum Zchir. 

" Bahman-Mirza, the brother of Zchir," the queen 
told me, " has been the confidant of Prince Sword-of- 
the-Empire. Having had his ears filled with the sound 
of your praises, he himself feels amorous toward you, 
and aspires only to sec you, though it be through the 
windows of the indoroun. Allow me to beautify you, 
and we shall be amused." This pleasantry seemed to 
me an interesting change from the monotony in which 
we lived. 

" Come, I will make you as beautiful as the morning 
star," said the queen, commanding the servants to 



bring pastes, paints and perfumes. I was docile. A 
white unguent covered my paleness, my cheeks were 
transformed into two vermilion apples, a layer of surma 
united into one black arc my two eyebrows. On my 
forehead a few painted stars made me resemble a star- 
lit night ; golden powder on my hair imitated the 

" Now you are dazzling," said the queen, holding 
a mirror before me. 

" God All Powerful ! " I cried. " What horror ! " 

A vicious and powerful face looked at me from the 
glass. It was like the Persian images of Zeleikha in 
anger complaining of Joseph to Pharaoh. I was over- 
come ; the very sight of it terrified me. But there 
was nothing to do ; the paint was of the best, and would 
defy water and oil for weeks. I must present myself 
under this mask. The most striking of all were my 
eyes ; they were those of an enraged tigress. 

" What is, must be," I said, shrugging. " Let us go 
thus to charm your Bahman ! " At least, no one could 
think that I was committing the sin of showing my face 
to a Mussulman. 

At the house of Zehir we found in a bouquet all the 
young women painted thus, in the traditional fashion 
for grand fetes. I did not see Bahman, but without 
doubt his eyes followed each of my gestures from 
behind curtains or through the glass dome of the halls. 
And we could only suppose that he had not been dis- 
appointed, for our idle life was for a long time enlivened 
by his letters. 

An old seller of oranges brought them, and to divert 
all suspicion she often changed her occupation, bring- 
ing one day rare embroideries, another day gold laces, 



in which we always found, carefully hidden, his messages. 

" To love is to be intoxicated by the wine of eter- 
nity," he would write, quoting the Persian poets. 
" To give oneself to love is to find salvation, to know 
oneself and to die. But thou wilt say, to know me is 
to know immortality." 

Little by little these letters, delicately passionate, 
became a need to me. Each morning I awaited with 
impatience the arrival of the old woman who brought 
them. Fearing to lose his respect by replying to them, 
I answered only by symbolic signs, by a flower or a bird 
in an enamelled cage. But what is required to nourish 
a passion ? 

" Oh, that I might lie upon your path," said another 
quatrain. " That you might walk upon my eyeballs ! 
But I fear lest my lashes should wound your feet." 

Growing more and more impatient, he sent me one 
day the verses of Hafiz, " Who was the happy one who 
gathered the flowers and fruits of thy garden ? " 

Timid and fearful, I did not dare to see him. 

" I consume myself," his feverish writing told me one 
day. " Too late thou wilt lean toward me, and like 
Cyprus dying, I will say to thee, ' Leave me ; already 
the circle blurs before my eyes ; fire, earth and water 
arc one.' " 

Zchir came one day to tell me that her brother was 
gravely ill. She did not dare to say more. After she 
had gone, the queen handed me a little portrait. " It 
is he," she said. 

On that circle of ivory framed in jewels I saw him 
for the first time. His eyes begged me for caresses. 
No, I had not the courage to accept the love of a 





The queen alone knew my weakness when at night 
I tried to smother my sighs, and when in the mornings, 
tottering, I clung to the trees, my hands feverish and 
my throat choked with sobs. However, when she 
urged me to accept the love of Bahman I replied 
obstinately, " Never ! Never ! O my fathers ! O 
' Heaven ! " 

On the verge of death, he was taken to the moun- 
tains. I sent him the gift which should keep me for 
ever in his memory — a young eunuch. 

What would I not give to-day, to be offered such a 
beautiful love ! But beneath the noonday sun who 
can recover the rosy morning ? 

Yet I confess that these temptations which my Chris- 
tian conscience resisted made a part of the charm of our 
indoroun life. The other half of that charm was in the 
complete liberty with which we played behind those 
walls apparently so imprisoning. After the grave 
atmosphere of the house of my father-in-law Assatour- 
Khan, the house of Envar-ed-Doule, the queen's 
mother, was a paradise of freedom and gaiety. Among 
the cushions, the flowers and the perfumes, the capri- 
cious Persian girls seemed spoiled children. For us 
Christians such joys were tasted only on days of betro- 
thals or weddings. I remembered how I had offended 
all the elderly women of my husband's family by cutting 
a rose to bloom on my gown. It was so beautiful on 
the black velvet heavily embroidered with gold ! But 
beneath the austere glances of the three ancient ladies 
I had felt that I wore on my breast all the vice of the 
world. Tearing it off, confused, I had thrown it into 
the pond where, drowning among the water-lilies, it 



had a less sinful look than among the roses of gold on 
my robe. 

Beneath the same Persian sky, in the same walled 
gardens, among the Christians every one languished, 
every one sighed ; among the Persians everyone laughed 
and sang. The brooks were more sparkling, the foot- 
paths whiter, the shadows bluer, the groves more 
perfumed. Men did not walk here with the stern 
majesty of King Saul and King Nebuchadnezzar. Here 
were no grandmothers who returned from Mass after 
having eaten the body of Christ, to freeze with their 
cold glances the careless mirth of the young. 

All-merciful Father, what beautiful impulses, what 
beautiful loves are murdered in those Christian gardens ! 
The imprint of austerity must remain upon us even in 
our alcoves, even in the arms of our husbands. Loved 
and loving, we should commit a sin in expressing with 
gestures or words our tenderness. And this modesty, 
the unpitying reserve of patriarchal etiquette, froze in 
a few weeks of marriage all our springtime dreams. Oh, 
the cruel etiquette, to which all must submit, even the 
woman who is bearing a child ! Surrounded, according 
to our custom, by the eldest of the elders, she must 
become a mother without one sigh or one groan. It is 
thus that the weak and ardent Armenian women arc 
disciplined, in order to make of them the martyr- 
mothers who, by the order of Turkish officers, will throw 
themselves into the Euphrates after seeing the murder 
of their husbands and the mangling of their children. 
Instead of blaspheming their God, turned thus into a 
bloody idol for them, they will die crossing themselves, 
denying neither the Cross nor their Saviour. They 
try to be strong enough even to smile at death 



and to be happy thus to redeem the sins of the 

Dear mothers of Armenia, it would be better for you 
if you had never known our Eastern Christ. More 
practical than we, the Occident has known how to 
express His sublime messages to men in such a way that 
they are heard with impunity. Let us regret that at 
the time of the grandeur of the infallible Popes, our 
fathers did not consent to submit to the power of Rome. 
Armed against the sublime words of Christ by the Holy 
Inquisition, by the auto-da-fe, by the indulgence and 
other safeguards, we Armenians would not have been 
reduced in a few centuries of fanatic Christianity from 
thirty millions of prosperous people to three millions of 
miserable survivors. 

I ask myself why the Europeans, in order to conquer 
Asia, use powder and cannon, when by easily exploiting 
Oriental fanaticism a handful of Occidental Christians 
could make, without spilling one drop of blood, more 
conquests than their thousand merciless armies by land 
and sea. 

Among the Persians I breathed at last with all my 
lungs. It seemed to me often that I had come from a 
dark, cold palace into a peaceful and charming garden 
warmed by the sun. There was no etiquette to observe, 
no men among the women. We were free, to go about 
in light garments, to bathe in the ponds, to gather 
flowers, to play the thar, sing, laugh, go to town or to 
the summer gardens — always, of course, veiled in the 
street and accompanied by old nurses. Persian women 
were absolute queens in their homes, and if it happened 
by chance that we met the men beneath the arches of 



the common entrance, it was for them to make way in 
order not to hinder us. 

I really do not understand the cause of the error, 
common among Europeans, of believing that the Asiatic 
woman is a slave. To be the slave of tradition and of 
love is another thing ; what is more beautiful than 
fiercely to cast aside one's will in order to submit to a 
beloved being ? Did not Mary Magdalen gladly make 
herself the slave of Christ ? And has there been in the 
world a more queen-like woman than that great cour- 
tesan of Magdala ? As for the position of the Oriental 
woman before the law, one can only regret that that of 
the Occidental woman is so inferior. I advise feminists 
to borrow a few precepts of Mohammed concerning the 
rights of women. Protected by these precepts, the 
condition of the European woman, slave to her husband 
and to his laws, would be much improved. 

I have said that we were absolute queens in our gar- 
dens. The men could not enter them save when Envar- 
ed-Doule invited them ; we retired then into our 
underground rooms. If the guests interested us we 
mounted by ladders to the skylights, and there we 
criticized, mockingly or admiringly, their appearance, 
conversation and manners. 

The house of Envar-ed-Doule, like all great houses of 
the Orient, was filled with poor old men and women, 
relatives or strangers picked up by charity from the 
bazaars. The Orientals, having no courts nor laws 
which impose upon society by force a sentiment of 
humanity toward the weak and the abandoned, are 
generous by nature and by tradition. Thus one never 
finds in our country women left starving by their hus- 
bands and young girls thrown upon the streets by base 



lovers, as in the Occident. The people immediately 
bring help to such unfortunates, and their offenders, 
morally stoned by Asiatic society, lead the existence 
of outcasts without any hope and die in misery and 

The women thus taken into a household never abuse 
the generosity of those who befriend them, because the 
conscience which directs everything in the Orient is 
infinitely superior to the respect for law which controls 
the Occident, especially since this respect must be for 
laws that are very indulgent to the unscrupulous. I 
have often admired, quite sincerely, the solidarity with 
which men of the Occident unite to defend one of their 
number against a woman whom he has wronged. This 
kind of comradeship is still unknown in our savage 
countries ; like all primitive peoples, we have a different 
sense of justice. 

The old women sheltered beneath the roof of Envar- 
ed-Doule, far from oppressing our youth as do the 
Christian elders, made way for us like old leaves before 
the new. They squatted comfortably on wooden 
benches, to protect themselves from little snakes, and 
warmed themselves beneath the sun through long idle 
hours. When they wished distraction they came down 
to us, and in the shade of our vaults, smoking the 
odorous kalian, they would revive for us their pic- 
turesque pasts, sharing with us all the wisdom they had 
acquired in a long life. 

When the loves of a horrible old woman, paralysed, 
bent, half-blind, nearly deaf, seemed to us too beautiful 
to be believed, she brought out to us the proofs. There 
were old letters, ardent and romantic, in which the old 
woman was addressed as a rose, as a doe, as a singing 



bird. She herself, chuckling in her withered throat, 
was the first to mock the changes which time has in 
reserve for us all. Leaning over the yellowed pages, we 
laughed at the ardour of the lover who had compared 
her to the moon, and sighed when she told us that she 
had seen his whitened bones which the jackals had dug 
from beneath a slab in the cemetery. But soon, dis- 
tracted by other letters and other hyperboles, we forgot 
hideous death which watched us, and laughed gaily. 

" Some day, my beautiful Khanoums," she said 
indulgently, " your grandchildren will mock you also 
when some one tells them that your eyes were like 
comets and your hair the shadows of night." 

Indeed, nothing was impossible, if it were true that 
this hideous ruin had in other days maddened her 
masters, reigned in their harems, and left them weeping 
when, seized by a passion for a wandering dervish, she 
had abandoned everything to follow him and to tempt 
the human heart of the divine fakir. 

" And did you really seduce him ? " asked the queen. 

" Such was the will of Allah," piously replied the old 
woman. " In His wisdom, He has created seduction so 
that even divine fakirs must humble themselves before 
its power." 

" And did you hold him for a long time ? " 

" Alas, he was a wanderer ! How could I nail him 
to one spot for more than a day ? I remember that 
day in the desert ; the sun was torrid, the sands were 
golden. We were happy, oh, so happy ! But the fresh- 
ness of the night awakened him from the dream, and 
terrified he fled toward the Arabian Sea, to wipe out his 
sin by the penitence of the great Imams." 

" It is to avenge that unhappy man that Allah has 



punished you by bending your back double," said the 
queen severely. She was grieved by the downfall of 
the saintly fakir. 

" By penitence he will acquire in the celestial gardens 
a better place than he would have won before his fall," 
replied the old woman with sincere conviction. " As 
for my hump, the Merciful One has punished me for 
having once stolen the grace of his winged houris. Too 
many ardent arms embraced me in those days when I, 
intoxicated with the hours Allah had given me in which 
to be happy, displayed my body in lascivious dances." 

" Go, vile Djende ! " said the queen with repug- 

" Praise to the Prophet Ali and to Saint Hossein, that 
shameful name is no longer mine," answered the old 
woman. " Barefooted, I made pilgrimage to Mecca 
and to Medine. Prostrated, crawling like a reptile, I 
dragged my unworthy body toward the sacred places. 
These eyes have been lifted to the black hyacinths of 
holy Kaaba. Praise to the celestial Fatima ! for a long 
time I have been Hadji-Khanoum, and the gates of 
Paradise will open to me more easily than to you. 
Allah is great, and His mercy is infinite." And, bent 
double, supporting herself on her short crutches, this 
old sinner went away like a four-legged animal, exalted 
in our eyes by her limitless faith in the Divine mercy. 

This Hadji-Khanoum did nothing in the house of 
Envar-ed-Doule. But her companions were not use- 
less. From them one learned the recipes of ancient 
medicines, through them were completed the legends 
of which part had been forgotten, from their lips one 
learned by heart the songs of the old wandering singers, 
the songs of marriage and the funeral lamentations. 



It was they who taught the weavers the antique 
arabesques. They were also charged with rinding con- 
cubines for the sons of Envar-ed-Doule, and with over- 
seeing the innumerable children of the young servants 
in the farmyard where they lived among the hens and 
chicks. It was a joy to me to see them, those little naked 
children struggling with each other to suckle at the 
breasts of a soft-eyed doe which, with the impassiveness 
of a veritable mother, walked among them ready to 
nourish them at no matter what hour. 

Wise mistress of a large house, Envar-ed-Doule gave 
to every one full liberty, and gratitude for her confidence 
established a happy order everywhere. The young 
listened without any rebellion to the advice of their 
elders. Only in complicated situations was the mistress 
of the house consulted. Then, after listening to every 
one concerned and taking counsel with the old women, 
Envar-ed-Doule solemnly reprimanded whoever had 
troubled the harmony of the common life. 

There was only one person who destroyed our tran- 
quillity and sowed anguish in the heart of the queen's 
mother. This was the little Suhun, former servant of 
the queen, now become the concubine of Prince Zelil, 
the second son of Envar-ed-Doule. 

This little servant, who had for beauty only her large 
eyes, ardent and proud, had bewitched Zelil with a 
glance when one day he found her washing the queen's 
feet with her small henna-stained hands. 

Allured by the beautiful eyes of the little maid, 
Zelil tried vainly to unveil her. For only an instant the 
long red veil which covered her from eyes to ankle 
fluttered apart, and Zelil was blinded by the immaculate 



whiteness of a young throat which showed through a 
light tunic. He tried to embrace her, but she evaded 
him, with a tinkling of silver bracelets. 

" For whom do you keep this flowery garden ? " 
Zelil said to her. 

" For my master, for my beloved," she replied. 

" And who is your master ? " he demanded^ trembling 
with jealousy. 

" Only he who will take me, never again to abandon 

" I am he, then ! " cried Zelil. 

He went at once to his sister the queen, and said, 
" Sister, go tell our venerable mother that I am twenty 
years old, that her house has need of posterity, and that, 
submitting to the will of Allah and my destiny, I take 
as my concubine your servant Suhun." 

" May Heaven vomit flames upon my head ! " cried 
the terrified queen. " May my soul become a torch in 
the black palace of Azerahil, if she is not a leper, my 
brother. What delights could you know in such 
arms ? " 

" Suhun shall be mine ! " replied Zelil obstinately, 
seeing only that his sister wished to keep her servant 
from him. 

In vain the whole family set themselves against Suhun 
and this concubinage. Zelil refused to listen, demand- 
ing Suhun. At last, seeing that he would neither eat 
nor drink, and that he was wasting with a fever which 
nothing else would cure, Envar-ed-Doule commanded 
that the little Suhun should be led from the queen's 
apartments to those of Zelil. 

Just at midnight Suhun was placed in his impatient 
arms. According to the modesty of Persian marriages, 



the bride does not unveil herself. Respecting the little 
Suhun's bashfulness, and intoxicated by the touch of 
those little arms covered with bracelets that clasped his 
neck, Zelil did not uncover her face. Only at dawn did 
he unveil his beloved. 

Horror ! A face hideously ravaged by deep healed 
scars tried to smile at him, but this smile seemed to him 
the grimace of a sorceress. Horrible cries awakened the 
household. They were the cries of Zelil, who fled to 
his mother. 

From that night, Suhun was banished from his pre- 
sence. But Allah had blessed her, and she was the 
mother of Zelil's male child. According to custom, her 
maternity gave Suhun a high place in the household. 
The child was loved and petted as the first grandchild 
of the family. Son of a servant, he nevertheless bore 
the name of his father, and inherited his wealth. The 
Mussulmans never despise, in any circumstances, the 
fruit of love, and are deeply horrified to learn that in 
the Occident the Christian peoples treat with cruelty 
those innocent children who are born of parents who 
have not placed on a piece of paper, in church or court, 
the proper number of signatures. 

But Suhun began to command the household like a 
veritable little tyrant, forcing all desires to yield before 
hers. Nor was it only ambition that tormented her 
wilful nature. She loved Zelil with all her soul, and 
banished from his apartments she watched day and 
night at their door to prevent another pretty servant 
from taking a place by his side. From her misery and 
her jealousy came all the troubles that afflicted the 
peaceful house of Envar-ed-Doulc. The fury of the 
little Suhun in the quarrels which broke forth around 

D.S. I59 L 


her shocked us all. Enraged, she knew how to wound 
not only all the seraglio, but even the venerable Envar- 
ed-Doule herself. 

The other women had only one means of subduing 
her. It was to remind her that she was a leper. Then 
abruptly Suhun would become silent. Shrinking like a 
dog cruelly beaten, she would slip into a corner of the 
garden, and soon her shrieks and her prayers pierced our 
hearts. The evening fell, the moon rose, and still one 
heard her cries and her petitions to Allah, until madness 
took hold of her. Then she beat herself against the 
tree, tearing her hair and shrieking. Finally she fell on 
the grass and lay still, clutching her head between her 

Pitifully, I would go toward her. Veiled thus, her 
young and graceful body was beautiful. " Suhun, 
Suhun," I said, to rouse her from her stupor. She lay . 
still. " Suhun," I said tenderly, kneeling beside her to 
put my hand on her poor head. Abruptly she rose, 
and prostrating herself before me laid her head upon 
my knees, trembling without weeping, because she 
found her sorrows understood. 

Or sometimes, although he abhorred her, Zelil him- 
self went to find her in these hours of hopeless revolt 
against Destiny, and standing at a distance with his 
arms folded he commanded her in a dry and authorita- 
tive tone to go to her child. When, seeing even in 
these words a little remembrance of their love, Suhun 
rose and passed before him, humble, with her head 
bowed, he said, " Tempt not the patience of Allah ! 
Other women walk on bare feet to Mecca and to Medine 
to implore the holy Imams to bless them with posterity. 
I have given you a child. What more must you have r " 

1 60 


Leaning against a tree she began again to weep, and 
Zelil angrily left her. 

To distract ourselves from this tragedy, we were glad 
to listen to the gossip of a young seller of brocades. He 
rode into the garden solemnly seated upon a donkey 
with henna-dyed hoofs, which walked to the tinkling of 
innumerable silver ornaments. The donkey shared the 
dressed-up air of his master, who smiled down upon us 
as though he were a bringer of precious gifts from the 
days of Shah-Abbas. While, according to his custom, 
he washed his .hands at the edge of one of our pools, his 
servant spread out a carpet and placed upon it the pack- 
ages of goods, wrapped in silks. 

Talking of the good weather, of our health, and of the 
rareness of beautiful things, the merchant took his 
place upon the carpet. After drinking a cup of tea 
offered by our servant and invoking many times the 
names of Allah, Hossein, Ali and all the Imams, he 
began slowly to display his merchandise. We learned 
that Azerbaijan had the year before been ravaged by an 
epidemic, that the roads of Mazandaran were overrun 
by the ferocious Baktiaris tribes, that for the next year 
we would have no more Afghan silks, that the shawls 
made at Bokhara since the invasion of the Muscovites 
were not as valuable as his, which dated from the time 
of the independent Emirs. He showed us also a few 
rare skins from Daghestan, and some precious merchan- 
dise from over-seas. By chance, he pulled from his 
pocket a magnificent amber necklace, which delighted 
the whole indoroun. With the greatest mystery he 
confided to us that it was a necklace which the Tartar 
princess of Kurdamir had given him in exchange for a 



magic veil which the beautiful Tartarian used to disguise 
herself from her old husband in order to meet her lover. 

Finally, with a mysterious air, he reached toward the 
last package, and, rising to his feet, dazzled us with his 
mauve, blue, red and yellow brocades. The golden 
designs lost themselves amid arabesques of all colours, 
and the harmonious richness of that iridescence en- 
chanted us like an old garden under the setting sun. 

" Yesterday Khanoum Rogbet-es-Saltaneh bought a 
brocade like this for the marriage of her daughter, 
Dorreth-el-Molk," he said in an indifferent tone. 

"Ya Allah!" cried Envar-ed-Doule. " She is 
married at last, that little obstinate ! I believed her 
lost to the world, like all those who go to get learning 
in the Christian convents of Teheran." 

" Why ? " I asked, surprised. 

" Following the example of the Christian nuns, who 
dedicate their virginity to the Prophet Messiah, that 
little Dorreth wished to dedicate hers to our Holy 
Prophet. As if in truth the Holy Prophet needed this 
virginity, not having enough with the winged houri and 
the silver-footed peri ! " 

As a Christian, I felt that I must protest against these 
light remarks upon the perpetual chastity of our con- 

" Khanoum," I said very respectfully, " may the 
celestial Imams tear out my tongue, and Saint Fatima 
change into flames all my veils, if I offend by reflections 
unworthy of the sublime verses of the Alcoran. Let us 
admit that our Christ has no need of the virginity of 
our nuns, nor even that of our monks. But is it just 
that according to the Alcoran — eternal rain of pearls 
and diamonds be upon it ! — is it just that the entrance 



to your mosques should be reserved only to the men ? 
For, in order to pray there, woman must purify herself 
for three days and nights, while man by a simple ablu- 
tion is rendered chaste. And as, thanks to Allah, all the 
good Mussulmans do not deprive themselves of the 
society of their faithful wives for so long as three days 
and three nights, one can hardly ever see in the sacred 
places the pious Mussulman women. Indeed, Kha- 
noum, that seems to us as singular as our perpetual 
chastity seems to you." 

" May the Prophet Ali preserve the verses of the 
Alcoran from our unworthy judgments," Envar-ed- 
Doule replied gravely, and to change the subject she 
bought a beautiful brocade. 

The visit of the merchant being ended, we all helped 
to fold up the marvellous fabrics. 

" To-morrow Padi-Shah gives an audience at the 
Dar-Bar palace," said the merchant, to show that he 
was not at all ignorant of affairs in high places. " And 
Shahzade, pardoned for intriguing against the Shah to 
obtain the throne, will be there." 

" What has become of his old Franguian princess ? " 
asked Envar-ed-Doule. 

" She had been persuaded to go from Persia into 

The French princess of whom they spoke was an 
adventuress, a member of a great European family. 
Wearying of everything and dying of boredom in her 
own country, she undertook journeys in Persia, and at 
the head of a caravan she had visited the historic ruins 
in the farthest corners of the country. But it was the 
burlesque adventures on the highway and in the caravan- 
series, the pillaging, the fears of assassination, the 



menaces of the camel-drivers and the quarrels with the 
muleteers, which delighted her. And at last, enchant- 
ment ! she discovered in an old abandoned garden a 
beautiful palace, Tchehel-Aine (Forty Mirrors) and 
amid the Forty Mirrors — a prince, a young prince ! 
Blond as the sun and pale as the moon, this young 
prince languished toward death, despairing of a fairy 
liberator who would take him from the exile in which 
he lived, far from the palace of his great fathers. He 
was, by law of birth, the heir to the throne of the Persian 
kings ; but the rebel vizirs, having changed the laws of 
his country, had exiled him in this palace at the borders 
of the kingdom of Iran. For months, within these 
dilapidated walls, the young prince had been consum- 
ing himself with boredom and wounded pride. That is 
why he recognized beneath the tailor-made costume- of 
this Franguian princess the golden wings of his houri. 
He pardoned the somewhat ripe age of the princess and 
submitted docilely to the strokes of her magic wand. 

The Frenchwoman, believing herself transported by 
this marvellous encounter into the realm of the Thou- 
sand and One Nights, lost all idea of reality, and clasp- 
ing Shahzade in her arms she promised to make him 
king of the Persians, on the modest condition that he 
would place on her head the crown of the ancient queens 
of Iran. Love united the royal dream of Shahzade 
with the ambitious fancy of the princess, and they 
prepared a revolution in the Kingdom of Roses. 

The adventuress equipped at her own cost a few 
hundred savage mountaineers, who gathered to them- 
selves other bandits armed with daggers and clubs. 
This army, beneath the banners of the young Shahzade, 
set out toward Teheran. Appearing with the sound of 



ancient trumpets and warrior cymbals beneath the 
peaceful walls of the cities, Shahzade and his consort 
conquered them without shedding a drop of blood. 
Even Kasvinh surrendered, and the victorious army 
approached the yellow walls of Teheran. Finding the 
gates of this city closed, Shahzade and his princess 
camped beneath silken tents to await events. 

The following day, when the sun had hardly risen 
above the horizon, a courageous herald appeared before 
the prince to announce that a price had been set on his 
head in the capital of Persia. Messenger of bad news, 
the herald was immediately nailed against the walls with 
pikes. Shahzade, discouraged, declared to the princess 
that he was ready to renounce the throne. But the 
valiant Frenchwoman called him a coward and an- 
nounced that she would go alone into Teheran to 
force the authorities to surrender the city to her beauti- 
ful prince under threat of a siege. A European, she 
believed herself quite safe, being persuaded that all 
the powers of Europe would unite to punish miserable 
Persia for having dared to oppose her, a woman of the 
highest French families. 

Alas ! The general of the Persian army was at that 
time an Armenian, Efrem. He was a grave, sober man, 
and did not in the least like such jokes. He commanded 
the princess to relieve Persia of her presence in forty- 
eight hours, exactly. If she were in the country after 
that time, she would be shot by his serbaz. The prin- 
cess paled, cursed all the Armenians of the world, and 
without even saying adieu to her Prince of the Thou- 
sand and One Nights, she fled from Persia. 

Peacefully sitting upon the carpet between the Queen 
of the Crowns and Envar-ed-Doulc, could I suppose 

i6 5 


that one day in Paris I would be invited, as a Persian 
dancer, to an Oriental fete which this same princess was 
giving in a splendid hotel ? But heavens, what singular 
meetings have I not experienced in this world that once 
seemed to me so large ! 

As for Shahzade, the merchant informed us that after 
the departure of the Frenchwoman he had entered 
Teheran, submitting and pardoned, and that he was 
now living in the palace of the young Shah. 

Curious to see him, I asked the queen to request her 
brothers to have me invited to the audience in the 
Dar-Bar palace. 

The following day at an early hour I was in a corner 
of the royal gardens reserved for the guests. 

Like all Persian houses, the palace of the Shah opened 
its facade to the garden, one of those open gardens at 
the same time sunny and melancholy, perfumed to 
giddiness by the roses and peopled by large peacocks 
with many-coloured tails ; one of those sleeping gardens 
where, soothed by the warm sun, one dreams of sweet 
caresses, of slow, slow joys, and of the limpid music of 
thars. Before our eyes rose the wall of the palace, a 
lacework of ebony, with its rose-windows jewels of a 
thousand colours, its arabesques of gold, and a panel 
opening into the interior. Through this opening we 
saw an arm-chair of gold, and a cushion embroidered 
with turquoises. 

The vizir of Dar-Bar announced to us the approach 
of the Shah. The guests bowed before the name, and 
at the same instant a voice like that of the muezzin began 
to chant his annals. The most glorious names of 
antiquity, accompanied by hierarchic synonyms from 



the Book of Kings, resounded in our ears. The distant 
gigantic shadows of Cyrus, Cambyses, Guistasp, covered 
with a cloak of glory the shoulders of this little King of 
Persia. All weak and pale as he appeared, the power of 
those splendid kings awakened in me the awe I had felt 
before the epic pages of Ferdousi. 

Upon his astrakhan cap a lion of diamonds with a 
mane of white aigrettes lifted ferociously a curved sword 
to defend the golden sun that rose above the forehead 
of the young king. Beneath these arms of heathen 
Persia two large melancholy eyes seemed to wonder at 
all that passed below on the garden pavement. He 
seemed like one awakened from a heavy sleep to see, 
surprised, the specimens of new peoples come from all 
the corners of the earth to parade before him. Instead 
of envoys from the Mongol Tsars of Kazan, of Baktehi- 
Serail, instead of Tartarian Khans from Shamahka and 
Badkoube, kings of Hindustan and Samarkand, Emirs of 
Afghan, of Boukhara, princes of Armenia, of Medinc 
and of Syria, here were ambassadors from France, 
England, Italy, Germany and America who passed 
before him. Proud and phlegmatic, these ambassadors 
hardly saluted him at all. They little resembled those 
of other times who prostrated themselves before the 
feet of the great kings of Persia as if before the 

The young Shah had at his right his younger brother, 
the heir ; at his left stood Shahzade, to whom he 
addressed from time to time a gracious word. Stand- 
ing behind this throne which he had disputed with the 
king, Shahzade, pale and bitter, tried to mask his bleed- 
ing pride with forced smiles. Below, on the pavement 
of the garden, the ambassadors filed past slowly, with 



the wearied manner of those compelled to play a useless 
comedy under the burning sun. 

Here are the Chinese, little buddhas in wax, with the 
indefinable smile of idols ; the Japanese with eyes which 
see everything and reflect nothing in their pupils ; the 
Turks in German uniform with Asiatic head-dress. 
Sensuous and vain, they seem to wish to hide beneath 
the assurance of the newly- rich their surprise at finding 
themselves in civilized society. Here are their masters, 
the Germans, heavy and authoritative, mercilessly com- 
pressed in their gold-laced coats. Here are the English 
with their mysterious smile ; they pass, their eyes nearly 
closed. Beneath their tall, proud head-dress they are 
splendid. Here, the French, elegant, natural, always 
smiling, with large gestures. The Americans with their 
manner of sailors awkward on dry land. And finally 
the Russians in their rich, heavily ostentatious dress. 
They seemed to parade their power as invaders of this 
country where the mosques and the ancient palaces 
served them as stables and barracks. Half -Asiatic, half- 
European, tormented in their vast bleak steppes by one 
eternal nostalgia, they poured from Tibet to the Baltic, 
and we believed them destined some day to dominate 
the world. 

I returned from this audience wearied by so many 
impressions. A cold bath in a pool of clear water 
refreshed me. During this bath I learned from the 
servants, who were also bathing to keep me company, 
that I had still another fete to see through the skylight 
of our underground apartments. That very evening 
the brothers of the queen, the Princes Kemal, Abou- 
bekir and Zelil, were to receive in the garden of their 



biroun a company of young mutrubes. 1 It was the 
little Suhun who was charged with all the care of their 

Khanoum Envar-ed-Doule did not like her sons to 
be away from the house at night, but in order not to 
deprive them of pleasure she authorized them from time 
to time to amuse themselves in her house. They 
invited there for a day or two their friends among the 
courtesans of Teheran. 

Envar-cd-Doule had serious reasons for such 
indulgence. The times were tumultuous. Since the 
Russian invasion there was no security anywhere, 
neither for goods nor life. The Russians practised 
faithfully their saying, Ya Tsar, Yai Bog (I am Tsar, 
therefore your God). 

One day, tired of walking, I sat by the side of the 
road with my old Tahia. A peasant in rags was passing, 
carrying two fowls to sell in the city. Two Cossacks 
appeared upon the same road. One of them approached 
the peasant, and taking the fowls continued on his way 
without saying a word. The peasant meditated a 
moment, then turned and went sorrowfully back 
toward his village. Aroused by this mute scene, I 
stopped him. 

" Why has he taken your fowls ? " I asked him. 

He regarded me with astonishment. " Why, to 
cook and eat them." 

" But will he not pay for them ? " 

He looked at me with as much astonishment as 
though he had seen me fall from the sky. " Pay for 
them ? He is a Russian ! " 

Everything was told in that. Not only by Russian 
1 Courtesan-dancers. 


minds, but also by Persian, it was believed that the 
Russians had been created by the good God to take 
everything without in any way paying for it. The 
Persians, least of all masters of their own country, had 
at this time to support all the claims of the savage tribes 
within it. In the general chaos each claimed his citi- 
zen's rights, that is to say, did not allow others to have 
theirs. From this resulted the cynical abuse of the 
words " liberty " and " fraternity." Each man got rid 
of his enemy by the blow of a dagger in the back, and 
men fraternized easily for pillage and assassinations upon 
the highways. 

In these conditions, to venture out of the house at 
night, even for sentimental purposes, was truly danger- 
ous. To avoid such risks, most of the Persians trans- 
formed their sober birouns into places of delight where 
they might forget the miseries of social calamities. The 
Persians, philosophers in everything, abhorred politics 
and much preferred the songs of nightingales to the 
conferences of deputies. 

Long before evening the little garden of the biroun 
was swept and sprinkled. Upon the pavement thick 
rugs were spread. A few cushions were placed on them, 
and on trays were arranged dishes of fruit, sherbets and 
wines, stringed instruments, little cymbals, tambourines, 
kalians and opium pipes, all strewn with freshly-cut 
roses. The Arabian master of the stables helped little 
Suhun arrange everything ; he was to take part in the 
entertainment, playing the flute and singing the songs 
of his own country in order to add the perfumes of 
Arabia to those of Persia. 

The queen and I wished to watch the spectacle of this 
fete. The way was easy. One wall of our subter- 



ranean rooms overlooked the little garden of the biroun. 
The high windows of this wall had broad sills. Mount- 
ing to them by ladders, we installed ourselves comfort- 
ably there, behind iron gratings which concealed us. 
The windows were on a level with the garden ; we 
would be as close to those who came there as though 
we had ourselves gone to the fete in invisible cloaks. 
In another window Envar-ed-Doule and the young 
Nadir were ready to contemplate all that passed before 
their eyes. Less romantic than we, they were eating 
nuts and bonbons. 

The mutrubes arrived, covered by long black veils. 
With slow, grave movements, their left hands threw 
back the veils from their faces, the right hands were 
laid upon their hearts. They greeted the men with 
great dignity. Standing, the men bowed respectfully. 

" Salem-el-alecom ! " 

" Afhate cherif ! " 

Our little Suhun, veiled as always, received the 
guests with the grace of a princess. Speaking of the 
beautiful weather, of their precious health, she amiably 
invited them to recline upon the cushions and to 
remove their long veils, which she immediately handed 
to a servant to be folded. According to custom, with- 
out receiving any order, another servant brought a 
black ewer of fresh water and poured a thin stream 
over the hands of the guest into a bronze basin : an- 
other offered towels. Always standing, the young men 
awaited permission to take their places on their rugs. 

" Ya Allah ! " I said, surprised, in the ear of the 
queen. " One would say that your brothers were 
receiving in their home the Queen of Shcba, or Saint 



" But what else ? " she said, as surprised as I. 
" Mutrubes are women." 

The servant was passing among the guests, offering 
cups of sorbet from her silver tray. The kalian was 
lighted, and drifts of scented smoke floated from painted 
lips to dissolve in the still air. Now and then an idle 
hand brushed a wisp of music from the strings of an 

Of the five mutrubes, one was merely a child, and 
another about forty years old. According to our cus- 
toms, this older one had already abandoned the life of 
a courtesan. Serious, and without any rouge, she 
appeared as grave as the young girl. The thoughts of 
both seemed far away. The lassitude of the older 
woman seemed to hold all the sleeping memories of her 
life ; the dreaming eyes of the child seemed to listen to 
the wings of the mysterious future which was flying 
toward her. The other three dancers were young 
women sixteen or seventeen years old. 

To honour the month of Mouharem in which we 
were, the elder recited a verse of the Alcoran. Then 
she began to sing the most beautiful fragments of old 
poems and familiar legends. Melancholy and bereft of 
all illusions, this singer put into her song all the feeling 
which in times now past she had put into her loves. 
Sad memories, anguish and longing, tenderness and 
ardour, were dignified by a noble sorrow, like bright 
colours in an autumn garden. She sang of the crystal 
palace of Soleiman, ruler of the djinns, fairy halls built 
upon a lake. Here, at the threshold, stood the Queen 
of Sheba, called in Persia " Queen of the West." She 
is pale as the morning star in her long robes that hide 
her golden feet from the eyes of the indiscreet. Mys- 



tcrious feet, that no one in all the world has seen ! But 
the djinns, who bow to the will of Soleiman, approach, 
invisible. They pull away the carpet from beneath her 
sandals. Left on the floor of crystal, she believes her- 
self sinking into the lake ; terrified, she lifts the edge of 
her robes. And Soleiman is dazzled by the beauty of 
two little golden feet, covered with a light down. It 
is this down, soft as the bloom on a peach, that enchants 
the great king. And the first favour that he asks that 
evening of his little queen is to be allowed to press 
against his eyeballs those little feet, seen for an instant 
on the crystal slabs above the lake water. 

The singer stopped, moistened her lips with sorbet, 
lifted a rose to her nostrils, and after a few straying 
notes from the strings of the thar she began again to 

Attentive and thoughtful, her hearers lay upon the 
rugs, transported with her to the lands of faery. 

Now she sang of the tragic love of Medjnoun and 

Lcily was not beautiful, but Medjnoun loved her. 
And when Leily's father separated them for ever by 
giving his daughter to an Arabian prince, Medjnoun 
went away into the deserts to break the hearts of the 
wild beasts by his sorrow and to cause the stones them- 
selves to weep. 

" Leily, Leily," sang the sobbing voice. " Light of 
my life, bringcr of death, Lcily ! Lcily, Leily, O my 
love ! " 

In each other's arms the queen and I wept as if it 
were our names that Medjnoun was crying alone in the 
silence of the desert. The mutrubes covered their 
faces, and the queen's brother trembled with grief. 



Hardly had we quieted our sobs and dried our eyes, 
when we heard the tragedy of Ferhad and of Shirine. 

Shirine, Queen of Armenia in heathen times, 
swayed before us, young, beautiful, loving and loved by 
Khosrow, Emperor of Persia. But for the welfare of 
his kingdom Khosrow must take as his wife another 
queen. Shirine, wounded to death by her love, left 
her palace and gardens, renounced her throne, and went 
into the desert to die alone among the cliffs of Bi- 
Soutoun. To comfort her last moments, Khosrow 
sent his sculptor, the giant Ferhad, to carve his em- 
peror's image on the rocks of Bi-Soutoun. Shirine left 
her refuge in the cliffs and came to gaze upon the 
image of her beloved, and Ferhad, seeing all the sorrows 
of the world in her dark eyes, loved Shirine. Before 
the image of the emperor, Ferhad killed himself by a 
blow of his great hammer. Bending above the dying 
giant, Shirine felt her heart melting in the fire of his 
great love, and gave her lips to his kisses. 

" Come, O my queen ! Come, O splendid death ! 
My light, my sun, my sea of love, Shirine, Shirine ! 
Eternity of rapture, O my Shirine ! " And death 
united the souls of these great lovers. 

The youngest of the mutrubes, crouched beside the 
singer, wept, and kissed the hands that rested on the 
strings of the thar. 

" But I am changing the festival into a funeral ! " the 
singer said, smiling upon the listeners who were broken 
by emotion like flowers by rain. " Rise, my daughter," 
she continued, addressing the child. " Dance for us 
your pretty dances ; we are here to love and laugh, not 
to mourn the sorrow of old loves." 

The little one rose and arranged the folds of her dress. 



The scarlet silken sash was moulded about her slender 
hips ; a transparent white robe covered her childish 
body. With a sweeping gesture she took the cymbals, 
flung back her thick rich locks of hair, rose upon the 
tips of her little feet, and began her dance. It was the 
poem of the awakening of the lotus to the sunshine, 
sung by the little quiverings of her adolescent body. 
Her eyes closed, her lips parted in an innocent smile, 
she was as fresh as the lotus and as candid as the dawn. 

At the end of the dance, Prince Kemal called her to 
him and kissed her upon the forehead. She smiled, and 
in order to be polite ottered her forehead to Zelil and to 
Aboubekir. With the manner of affectionate brothers 
they kissed her, and offered her bonbons, which she 
gathered in her little red handkerchief, and then re- 
turned to her place beside the singer. 

" Let us go to sleep, my daughter. The hour is late 
for us two," the singer said to her as kindly as a mother, 
and preceded by Suhun they went into the biroun, 
where servants were spreading their beds. 

The venerable Envar-ed-Doule, saying, " Youth to 
the young," left her place in the window, taking with 
her the young Nadir, who begged her to let him see all of 
the fete. M Come, come, my son," she said to him 
tenderly. " At your age it is better to sleep. In two 
years you, too, will be with your brothers in the biroun. 
But now, let us go to sleep." 

The queen and I rearranged our cushions, and 
remained in our window. We were both of the 
same age as the dancers, and nothing was forbidden 
to us. 

The spirit of the garden changed with the departure 
of the older woman, whom the young mutrubes 

d.s. 175 m 


respected as a mother. She was their mistress in the 
difficult art of the courtesans of Asia. From her they 
learned the science of pleasing the eye, of dancing, 
being open-hearted, reciting beautiful poems, scattering 
through their conversation jewels of proverbs, and how 
to flatter shy wooers, to be proud with bold men, to be 
grave in the evening and to blossom into flowers of 
love in the dawn. 

The young men asked permission to remove their 
sober black robes, and draped in long white tunics 
they stretched out on the cushions. The dancers 
emerged from their veils, leaving only silken tunics 
embroidered in gold, with long sleeves that half-opened 
to reveal the twinkling of their white arms. 

Zelil took the thar and began to play : the mutrubes 
danced. The garden seemed to laugh with all its willow 
branches. Even the olive-trees, silver in the light of 
the moon, cast away their moody air, and the one great 
cypress that overlooked the smaller trees lost its 

The eyes of the princes fixed themselves upon the 
palpitating throats and slender arms of the dancers. 
Bending forward to the ground, the girls, like charming 
serpents, slid their bodies along the carpet, and to the 
rhythm of the slow music, laughing, almost reached 
the arms held out to them, retreating again when an 
eager touch would have broken the rhythm of the 

Of the three mutrubes one, an Armenian, dreamy 
and sad, incarnated so well the spirit of the legendary 
queen that in addressing her they said, " Khanoun 
Shirine." Another was mischievous and mirthful, and 
the third, Assorie, was a tall and beautiful Assyrian. 



Her strong shoulders, her gleaming arms and thighs, 
were those of the marble figures of antiquity. From 
the beginning, without any hesitation, she had chosen 
the handsome Arabian horseman, preferring him to 
any of his masters. Sitting silent and gazing into each 
other's eyes, they seemed to have forgotten the world. 

It was only when Zelil, tired of playing, threw aside 
the thar, that the Arab stood up among the rose-bushes, 
and lifting his flute to his lips began to play the melo- 
dies of his Arabia. A country of magic and dreams 
rose before our eyes. The lovers ceased their ardent 
glances, raised themselves on their cushions, and leaning 
on their elbows abandoned themselves to the charm of 
the flute. This severe and haughty Arab was no longer 
their groom, but a proud king of the deserts, who was 
wearied to death among the little men and weaklings of 
a dying country. He evoked the crystal air of Arabia, 
the solitude of vast plains and the strength of great 
winds. He brought the desert into those narrow walls. 
The soft voluptuousness of the little Persian gardens 
sickened him, and his flute wept with regret and with 
rage. It cried that he would give a thousand languor- 
ous women for one hour of racing with the desert wind 
upon a fiery horse. 

Humiliated by the grandeur and the vigour of this 
Arabian, the little Persian princes rose and tried to 
escape the burden of themselves by wandering up and 
down the paths of their garden. Zelil, returning, took 
up the thar to drive away the futile longings that sad- 
dened them. And again in the intoxication of the 
dance they forgot the world. 

A poignant sadness ran through me. " So soon," I 
thought, " all the beauty and fire of life that fills these 

l 77 


trembling bodies will be dust in forgotten tombs." 

Kemal kissed the melancholy Shirine. She wept with 
happiness under his caresses. Smiling, Kemal dried her 
tears with rose-leaves. 

Zelil no longer wakened the soul of the thar with his 
slender fingers. Weary, he slept, his head laid on the 
knees of Suhun. Happy in this unexpected tenderness, 
Suhun held his head between her hands like a sacred 
lotus. On the rugs the tired dancers slept. The white 
moon was melting into the light clouds of dawn. 

Slowly the silvery olive trees resumed their dusty 
green ; the dark roses became golden and crimson in 
the clear light ; the cypress stood severe against the 
light sky. The birds awoke ; the voice of the muezzin 
announced the sun. Princes and dancers awakened, 
turned their pale faces toward the sunrise, and whis- 
pered their prayers. A yellow ray of sunlight entered 
the garden, calling believers to fasting and the prayers 
of Mouharem. Separating, the lovers went into the 
biroun to sleep until evening. 

We descended from our window. " Queen," I said 
to her, affected by all that we had just seen from our 
hidden corner during that beautiful summer night, 
" We Christians, we call all that a mortal sin." 

She shrugged her shoulders. " And we others, we 
call it, love." 

We slept. But the beautiful reality seen through 
our windows reflected itself in my dreams. Other 
lovers, beneath my eyes, kissed and sighed and danced 
to the rhythm of the thars that wept the swift passing of 
all loves. I woke, I seized the hands of the queen who 
slept beside me. 

" Oh no, no ! Do not sleep ! How can you sleep ? 



I, I want to live, to live with all my soul in a drunken- 
ness of happiness ! " 

She smiled. 

" O my queen," I said, stifling. " The vaults of 
these rooms begin to oppress me as much as the heavy 
beams of our patriarchal houses. Let us go away ! 
Let us go far from this place, to the countries where 
all the women are free, free to live fully every hour of 
their lives ! " 

" But where ? " she asked. 

I did not know. I knew only that something hidden 
in me that had been growing unnoticed had suddenly 
thrust leaves and blossom into the daylight. And its 
blossom was a desire to escape from all walls, to be free. 
Freedom ? What was it ? I did not know, but I 
desired it. The Persian society in which I lived was 
much freer from the bondage of prejudice than the 
Christian society from which I had come, but it was 
nevertheless the slavery which good society is, every- 
where. Like all women in high social position, we 
were held in the mire of stupidities and absurdities into 
which " propriety " and 1 * a good education " had sunk 
our feet ; we were incapable of being truly free spirits. 
Yet I remembered the unhappincss and disaster to 
which my brother had come, left by my father to 
develop as freely as the animals, according to the pre- 
cepts of Rousseau. Liberty ? Perhaps humanity is 
incapable of it. Liberty is perhaps only a dream. 
But that day, in spite of their beauty, the sombre vaults 
of our luxurious rooms oppressed and stifled me. 

To distract me, the queen took me that afternoon 
outside the city to the ruins of Rcy, the ancient capital 



of Persia. There, amid excavations like gashes in the 
dry earth, stood one wall. An emperor, surrounded 
by his twelve sons, his vizirs, his horsemen, his dancers 
and his musicians, was carved there in a glory mocked by 
the little lizards crawling on the proud writing that 
framed his grandeur, vanished now into nothingness. 

A fakir with the face of a dying ascetic, disturbed in 
his meditations, came out like a bat from the heaps of 
rocks. Angered because our voices had troubled his 
dreams, he cursed us with the sharp sounds of his 
dervish horn. 

" It is life I want," I cried. " Not the death of 
kingdoms. This wall terrifies me. It is more terrible 
than a thousand cemeteries." 

" Very well," she replied, and turning to the driver 
of our carriage she said, " Go to Shah-Abdul-Azim." 

" But do not be surprised," she said to me, " if the 
lack of servants and the appearance of our feet, too finely 
shod for those of grave khanoums, cause us to be taken 
for mutrubes." 

Having seen so closely those charming courtesan 
dancers, I did not at all mind being thought one of 
them for an hour or two. 

Shah-Abdul-Azim is a pretty village built around a 
mosque of the same name that stands above the tomb 
of Abdul-Azim, one of the most virtuous rulers of 
Persia. Gardens rose from the desert to spread their 
shade about this tomb, and time has canonized it and 
made it a place of pilgrimage. 

Night had reached Shah-Abdul-Azim before we 
arrived, but it had not brought darkness. We were in 
the month of Mouharem, the month in which night 
becomes day for the Mussulman. Illuminated by 

1 80 


thousands of flaming torches, the village seemed to be 
on fire. Beneath the smoking lights, a little bazaar. 
Alleys crowded with asses decked in tinkling bells, and 
Arabian horses ornamented with blue beads. Poplars 
shivering against the walls, gutters murmuring with the 
voices of living water. Little fruit-shops right and 
left ; on their thresholds old men with rust-coloured 
beards smoked their pipes. Little children played on 
the pavements, among the hoofs of asses and mules. 
In the crowds handsome men, grave and languorous, 
clad in sardaris of black silk and tall caps of astrakhan, 
followed with their velvety gaze the veiled women who 
passed with a tinkling of bracelets. Graciously the 
women allowed the wind to lift their fluttering veils, 
and their glances, at once timid and bold, stabbed 
manly hearts. All this colour and movement, this 
living tapestry woven of human lives, buzzed like a 
beehive with the sounds of voices, laughter, shuffling of 
sandals, cries of the camel- and mule-drivers, calls of the 
fruit and sorbet sellers. From time to time the high 
clear call of the muezzin came down from the skies to 
sanctify by prayer this happy care-free life. 

At the entrance to the village we had descended from 
our carriage to mingle with the crowds. Now a sound 
like the groans of the damned fell on our ears. We 
were before the wall that surrounded the mosque. 
We could see only the dome, lighted by the smoking 
torches of the penitents, and hear the clanking of iron 
chains, sobs, moans, and the jerky rhythm of drums. 
In the black smoke and lurid lights the panic-stricken 
trees quivered, holding out their branches toward us. 
I was seized by a desire to enter, if only for a moment, 
that mysterious place. 



" Dear queen, let us go there — into that garden," I 

She was silent. The idea of introducing a Christian, 
a Giaour, into that sacred place wounded the Mussul- 
man in her. I blushed, and said quickly, " Forgive me, 
in the name of Allah. It is because I have been 
treated in your house as one of the family that I 
ventured to ask to be allowed to salute the house of 

" May His light fall upon you, and His truth illumine 
your soul," she replied. " Let us go in. Your heart 
is pure." And lifting the heavy chains that hung 
across the entrance she led me into the garden for- 
bidden to unbelievers. 

In a circle of torches, the worshippers were dancing. 
Whipping their bare shoulders with iron chains, they 
followed in a circle the rhythmic leaps of their leader, 
who beat his chest with one hand and struck his head 
with a naked sword held in the other. Naked to the 
waist, glistening with blood and sweat, surrounded by 
the lamentations of black-robed women, they were 
shouting, " Shah Hossein ! Vah Hossein ! Ya Ali ! " 
These sacred names rose toward the black space of the 
sky, followed by the monotonous thick heart-beat of the 
drums, the clashing of cymbals, and the shrieks of the 
women. I could not move. The dancing red lights of 
the torches upon shaved and bloody heads frightened 
me as would the flames of hell. These epileptics, 
insensible to pain or fatigue, whose staring eyes and 
jerking bodies expressed the rage and desperation of 
those who for an instant have seen Paradise, only to lose 
it for ever, seemed to me the fiends of Azerahil. 

" Let us go, let us go ! " the queen said to me. 



" These dances make me want to die beating my head 
against the walls. Let us bow before the tomb of 
Abdul- Azim, and go ! " Her face was wet with 

" What ! You — you wish to take me into the 
mosque ? " I said, choking. 

" Come, come," she answered feverishly. " You 
will see two magnificent tombs in wrought silver set 
with turquoises ; you will see curtains of pearls as 
large as your eyes ; you will see great lamps of Mesr 
gold made in Schiras ; you will see the ancient prayer- 
rugs, and prostrated on your face you will kiss the floor 
of this mosque. Come, let us do it quickly, let us do it 
quickly, and go ! " 

She hastened, murmuring prayers. I followed her, 
trembling. I, a Christian, a Giaour, in the month of 
Mouharem, set my feet upon the sacred threshold of the 
mosque. Conscious of the sacrilege I was committing, 
I was like one drunk. In the feeble light of the lamps, 
through a haze, as if in delirium, I hardly saw the 
Arabian arches, the silver tombs, the dark corners 
hung with white curtains. The curtains were of 
black velvet, but so richly embroidered with pearls that 
they seemed white. 

The queen prostrated herself ; I, too, fell on my 
face. I could not think ; my mind was lost in a fog. 

" Woman, why are you wearing shoes, here ! " I 
heard suddenly a brutal, enraged voice. " Giaour ! " 
A rough hand seized my shoulder. 

" It is the end," I felt. " This is my death." 
Mingled with the sensation of falling through endless 
black space was the feeling that my mind was a small 
clear mirror, in which I saw my body torn to bloody 



fragments under the red light of torches. I felt my 
hands clutching the veils of the queen. 

She turned quickly. " Let her alone ! " she said. 
" She is my sister-in-law, a Kurd ; she is not familiar 
with our laws. But may Allah strike me dead if she is 
a Giaour ! " 

" Giaour ! A Giaour here ! " said some one 

" Giaour ! A Giaour ! " repeated furious voices. 

In an instant the dancers would hear that word and 
would throw themselves upon me. Already I felt 
their torches burying themselves in my body, my head 
splitting beneath their feet. I threw myself toward 
the doorway. 

" She is my sister-in-law, a Kurd ! " repeated the 
queen. " Allah rain lire upon me if I lie ! She is a 
true believer ! " And in vain she tried to restrain the 
frantic haste that was betraying me. 

But in a moment we were out of the garden, caught 
in the crowds of the streets. I rushed onward, drag- 
ging the queen behind me. " Wait, wait," she said, 
laughing. " Where are you going ? " 

Her laughter told me that I was saved. I could not 
speak ; it seemed to me that my veins were filled with 
weakness. Suddenly her hand seized mine. " Ah ! 
we are followed. We are lost ! " she said, terrified. 
Two men were following us. 

We hurried on, the queen glancing over her shoulder 
at every step. " It is nothing," she whispered in my 
ear. " They are two gallants who take us for courte- 
sans." She laughed. " Come, it is all over. Let us 
find our coachman." 

We were not far from the corner where we had 



left him, with orders not to stir until we returned. 
But, bewildered, we saw neither carriage nor coachman. 
An old beggar approached us. 

" Khanoums," he said, " your coachman has com- 
manded me to offer you his respectful greetings. 
After drinking some sorbet and hearing the tales of 
some story-tellers, he found a company of noble 
Baktiaris who promised him a mountain of gold if he 
would take them to the city. To you his salute ; to us, 
the poor, the charity of the rich." He held out his 
open hand. 

The queen was furious. " May his body be food 
for Shaitan ! " she exclaimed, placing a coin in the 
beggar's hand. " How, then, shall we reach the city, 
with neither carriage nor mules ? " 

The two gallants greeted us respectfully. 

" Could we, by the graciousness of Destiny, be of 
service to the beautiful Khanoums ? " said one of 
them. " Do such charming gazelles wish anything 
that humble devotion might offer them ? " 

" Allah spread over you his shadow ! " said the queen. 
" Indeed, we would be so happy, Aghas, to find two 
mules and a servant to take us to our residence in the 

"Your orders are w r ritten upon our eyeballs," they 
replied. " In half an hour you shall have our own 

" At the day of the resurrection may your eyes see 
only light," said the queen in sincere gratitude. 

" What light is more to be desired than that of the 
moon, your face ? " the younger answered. " Allah 
have pity upon us, and send us the alms of your smile." 

" Allah hears the prayers of the faithful," replied the 



queen. " Implore His favour and He will perhaps 
grant your petitions." 

There was in that a very grave promise. But the 
queen, too profoundly unhappy to value greatly any- 
thing, never counted the cost of her impulses. The 
young men smiled, happy at the prospect of meeting us 
again in the intimacy of our gardens. 

" And may our ears be rejoiced by hearing the 
names of our doves ? " 

" Allah is my witness that before we leave Shah- 
Abdul-Azim you will know them," the queen promised. 

" And perhaps even those of the gardens where 
happy ones are blinded by the radiance of those eyes ? " 

" You will know that also," said the queen. 

" Is that as true as the Koran ? " 

" As true as the holy Alcoran," the queen said 

The two young men went away to find their servant 
and the mules. 

" Queen, what have you promised them ? " I said in 

" Do not be troubled. I will tell them my name," 
she said. 

" And if . . ." 

" Allah is great and wise," she interrupted. " While 
we are waiting, let us smoke a kalian in the house of this 

We were near a sheik's house, and as they are caravan- 
series for all passers-by, we could enter it without any 
formality. Summoned by the violent barking of the 
dogs, an old, bent figure appeared on the doorstep with 
a flaming pine torch. Her fantastic shadow danced on 
the low walls. 

1 86 


" Salem-el-Alecom," she said to us with goodwill. 
" Enter in the name of Allah. The sheik is at the 
mosque ; I am alone in the house." 

We stooped to enter the bare old room. No furni- 
ture, a dingy carpet spread on the earth floor, a poor 
dinner arranged on a little cloth. One table encrusted 
with mother-of-pearl, and with an open Koran upon 
it, was lighted by a candle. 

" Continue your pious task," said the queen, guessing 
that the wife of the sheik had been reciting the Koran. 

" Allah is patient," she replied, removing the glasses 
that balanced on the tip of her nose. And curious to 
know who we were, she invited us to sit beside her on 
the ragged carpet. Without any order being given, 
an old servant brought and lighted the kalian. The 
queen took the long tube, put the mouthpiece to her 
lips, and began smoking with visible pleasure. I 
closed my eyelids and leaned against the wall, wearied 
by so many emotions. But the queen sought a little 

" She is my sister-in-law," she said to the wife of the 

" May Allah never deprive her of that good fortune," 
replied the old woman. " She appears to be of the type 
of the fragile women of Azerbaijan," she added. 

" She comes from a still greater distance, Khanoum," 
answered the queen. " She is from Kara-Dag." 

" Ya Allah ! From the Caucasus ? Is she Shiite or 
Sunnite ? " the old woman pursued, wishing to know 
to which Mussulman sect I belonged. 

" She is of the tribe of the Kerahim," the queen said 
mysteriously. I veiled my face quickly to hide a 



" Kerahims ? " the wife of the sheik repeated, sur- 
prised. She had perhaps never even heard the name of 
this tribe. " Do they follow the true light that will 
one day lead them to Paradise ? " 

" She herself is of the true faith," said the queen. 
" How else could my brother have married her ? " 

" And her tribe ? Does it still live in the darkness 
of ignorance ? " 

" Alas ! " said the queen in a tragic voice. " Her 
tribe still holds by two hands to the errors of the 

The old woman shook her head mournfully. " May 
the Prince of Heaven rest his merciful eyes upon that 
tribe," she said kindly, and turning to me, " Why do 
you remain so sad and silent ? " she asked. 

I had not time to speak before the queen said calmly, 
" She is mute, Khanoum. Allah protect the unhappy ! " 

The old woman regarded me tenderly, took the kalian 
and placed it before me. I bowed silently, and began 
to smoke. 

" She is still very young," said the old woman, 
" If your brother would send her on pilgrimage to 
Mecca and Kerbala, Allah would perhaps remove 
silence from her lips. Has she already served the 
prosperity of humanity and of your household ? " 

" Alas ! " sighed the queen. " The sins of her people 
rest heavily upon her ; she is sterile." 

" Allah remove from her His righteous anger ! " 
cried the old woman, completely upset by so many 

" Ah, Khanoum," continued the queen as if inspired, 

" In His infinite wisdom " But unfortunately for 

her fancies, the old porter at this moment announced 

1 88 


respectfully that our brothers awaited our commands 
outside, with two mules and a mule-driver. We left 
the wife of the sheik upon the threshold, gazing after 
us into the darkness. 

The queen was animated. These adventures had 
begun really to amuse her. She had already completely 
forgotten our emotions in the mosque. " Let us hasten 
to greet the lights of our souls ! " she said merrily. 

Those two young men approached us, their happy 
faces revealed by a small torch. With many compli- 
ments and poetic words they aided us to mount the 
mules. When- we were comfortably seated they 
reminded the queen of her promise. 

" I am the sister of the Princes Kemal, Zelil, and 
Aboubekir," she said gravely. The young men stood 
for an instant dumb, then bent double before those 
names, known to every one. 

" She," continued the queen, indicating me, " is 
. . ." and she spoke my name. The young men 
saluted us with profound respect. " I have told you 
our names. Guard them in silence among the treasures 
of your souls," the queen commanded them, " and may 
peace be upon you." 

Folding their hands on their breasts, they bowed 
deeply again. But to recompense them for their 
chivalrous aid, in taking the bridles of the mules we 
allowed our veils to float for an instant at the will 
of the wind, and their eager but respectful glances 
rested on our unveiled faces. 

The queen held out to one her handkerchief. I gave 
mine to the other. They pressed them against their 
breasts, their lips, their eyes, to express silently their 
gratitude. And we rode away toward Teheran. 



That was all. 

A comet rose from the Occident and climbed above 
our horizon. Pale at first, it became more and more 
terrifying and menaced the earth like a silver knife. 

The dervishes predicted plagues upon the whole 
world, a great war, and the end of empires. A mystic 
dread filled our hearts. Each of us felt the presence 
of a mighty king in anger who showed us the sword 
of his executioner. 

The day on which the comet would destroy us was 
announced. " At midday," said some. " At mid- 
night," said others. 

" Let us go to see the end of the world from our 
roof-tops," said the queen to me, while every one else 
was praying underground. " We shall never see any- 
thing more beautiful." 

We mounted the ladders to the roofs. 

At the instant of noon, between two winks of an 
eyelid, the sky covered itself with clouds that touched 
the earth ; the black wind of the desert howled 
around us. Prostrate in the streets, men and women 
called on their Gods, children wailed for their mothers, 
and these shrieks mingled with the terrified voices of 
the beasts. On the roof-top, in the wind, the queen 
stood holding up her arms to the sky. " Allah is 
great, Allah is merciful ! It is the end of the world ! " 
she cried, and her voice was like the flute of the Arab 
that had sung of freedom. 

The clouds passed. But no one doubted any longer 
that at midnight the comet would devour us. 

That evening it was dazzling : larger than the 
morning star, it spread its tail across the whole sky. 



The queen and I reclined in our underground rooms, 
smoking a few pipes of opium. " Do you desire to 
see this world continue any longer ? " she said. " I 
say to you that I would crush it all beneath my heel, 
like the egg of a scorpion. Nothing can issue from it 
but poison." 

As for me, I loved the world then. And the sweet 
heavy scent of the opium filled me with an illimitable 

We mounted to the roofs. Lying upon a carpet, we 
watched in silence. Suddenly we saw the earth divide 
in two, and fall away into the infinite. We were on a 
bronze island surrounded by a phosphorescent sea 
that swallowed in its waves millions of human 
beings. The comet stopped, hesitated a moment, and 
then darted at us the thunderbolt that struck us 
dead. . . . 

When we returned to life, in the bright morning, we 
were astonished and incredulous to see above us still 
the unchanged sky. 

The Europeans had registered a rain of stars and 
announced that the comet was going away. 

Life had resumed its monotony, which seemed more 
wearisome than before, when one day the brothers of 
the queen told us that on the next morning Justice 
would hang Prince M . . . cs-Saltaneh. 

He was a cousin of the queen. He had come from 
Odessa to restore the exiled Shah to his place upon the 
throne of Persia. Disguised as a muezzin, he had been 
going about in Teheran, and his party was almost 
ready to strike the blow that would have destroyed 
the Government, when he was betrayed, seized, and 

d.s. 191 n 


condemned to die. A scaffold had already been 
erected on the great square before the Divan. 

The queen lost consciousness when she heard this 
news. She lay for an hour without speaking or moving. 
Then a fever consumed her. Scarcely speaking, she 
walked up and down the garden paths, in and out of 
our rooms, without resting for a moment. 

" We must be present at his death," she said to me, 
" so that he may know that I am there, and that my 
heart dies in seeing him die. That will help him to 
bear it. You will come with me." 

" If you wish it," I said, my heart contracting. 

" Our Government ! " she said, spurning the word 
with her foot. And again, " Camel-drivers and 
masons ! " 

Through the whole night she walked up and down 
on the roof, like a drunken person. " If I could 
rescue him to-night ! " she said, wringing her hands. 
" Persia is no longer governed ; she is ruled by mule- 
drivers and the beggars of the bazaars. It is the vileness 
of the streets, the scum of horseponds, that is covering 
our gardens and our palaces." And again, " If he 
could be rescued ! If there were some way of rescuing 
him to-night ! Think, think, is there no way ? I have 
a place where he could be hidden for years in safety ! " 

I could say nothing. 

Early in the morning, heavily veiled, she and I were 
in a small room above the gates of the Divan Khane. 
On one side we saw the square overflowing with a 
crowd that had been there all night in order to see the 
spectacle ; on the other side our windows overlooked 
the court of the Divan, where the judges were seated 
at a table waiting for the last formalities. 



The prince appeared, followed by guards. He was 
still a young man. His glance was proud, his gestures 
grave and restrained. 

He replied negatively to all the questions that were 
put to him, and seemed eager to reach the scaffold. 
Beyond the walls, the impatient cries of the mob had 
been rising since dawn. 

The judges ended their questions. The order to 
lead the prince to the scaffold was given, and two 
guards seized his arms brutally. A profound anger 
flamed in the prince. With an imperative gesture 
he freed himself, and approaching his judges he saluted 
them courteously. The judges were astonished for an 
instant ; he asked a favour — to be allowed to sing 
before his death ! 

And facing our window he sang, his head uncovered, 
his little cap pressed against his breast ; he sang like a 
true lover, his eyes half-closed, and an indefinable 
smile at the corner of his mouth. One felt in his song 
all his sorrow to die on this beautiful morning, all the 
anguish of the death that waited outside the walls, and 
the horror of the shades that would blot out for him 
the sunshine that would still caress the world. 

He finished the song, bowed to his troubled judges, 
and walked toward the gates beyond which the 
crowd moaned like an ocean. He walked proudly 
beneath the archway. 

The howling of famished beasts seizing their prey 
rose from the mobs. The executioners were placing 
the rope around the prince's neck. 

In a few instants his body, with inert arms, was 
swinging in the air like a poor puppet. The throng, 
after an instant of silence, ran wild with ferocious joy. 



" Monsters ! Is that, then, humanity ? " I thought, 
sickened. " Is that the people ? This beast with 
a thousand heads ? " It was not grief for the one man 
who had died that blackened my soul ; it was a horror 
of all humanity. 

" Were I a queen of long ago," I thought, " I would 
hang in one day all this throng of monsters." 

The queen was slowly sinking on the floor, uncon- 
scious. Servants carried her to our carriage, and I felt 
that I was cruel in trying to bring her back to life that 
was so hideous. 

That evening, again consumed with fever, she took 
me away from the city to a little garden, deserted and 
unwatered, where on the dry earth among dead stems 
of flowers there was only a tumble-down hut. An 
old man, nearly blind, received us in its one dirty room. 
The queen ordered him to open a little door in one 
wall and asked me to pass its threshold. Inside, I stood 
stupefied. Before me innumerable white columns 
supported Arabic arches that upheld the domes of 
great caverns lighted by feeble rays of sunlight. Rich 
rugs, soft divans, inlaid tables, lamps of pierced silver, 
gave a fantastic touch of splendour and luxury to 
these lofty rooms. This had been the secret temple 
of the Guiabres and Babists, their only refuge during 
the religious persecutions of Nasr-ed-Din Shah. The 
queen had bought it, probably for her love affairs. 

" I would have hidden him here," she said. And 
prostrate on the stone floor, she wept. 

A little while later, Teheran feted the coronation of 
the young Shah. 

It must be understood that in Persia we were no 



longer under the rule of the despots. We were in 
" marchroutie " (Constitutional Government), and we 
had a Medjlis. The former despot, Mahomet Ali Shah, 
had been exiled to Odessa, after having spent a few weeks 
on neutral soil ; that is to say, on the billiard table of 
the Russian ambassador, where he was allowed to sleep. 
But although we had a Constitution, it seemed that the 
lion-crested crown of his father must be forced upon 
the head of the little prince, fourteen years old. He 
was given for an heir his little brother, eleven years old. 

The young king, weeping, begged them to take off 
this heavy hat and give it back to his father. 

The heir began to laugh. The king lost his temper 
and ordered him hanged. But he learned that in 
" marchroutie " this power belonged only to the 

" If I cannot even hang those I dislike, what kind of a 
king am I, then ? " the little Shah demanded, indig- 

" Constitutional, sire," the Courtier replied, bowing. 

From that moment he abhorred his throne and was 
plunged into gloom. He wished neither to eat nor to 
amuse himself ; he turned his back upon the court and 
stubbornly refused to smile. 

It was then that the queen and I thought of amusing 
him with a little entertainment, which we decided to 
give on the solemn occasion of his official accession to 
the throne. This entertainment might sweeten for 
him, we thought, the bitter ordeal of the ceremonies. 
But in order to give it we must be accompanied to the 
palace by another woman to act as our mother, and to 
find in all Teheran a third woman so audacious was a 
vain hope. The queen racked her brains. 



" Ah, saved ! " she cried at last. " There is a herma- 
phrodite in Teheran. She will consent to help us, 
without doubt." 

" A hermaphrodite ? That word says nothing." 

" But yes. She is of your country, too. They say 
the Caucasus is full of them." 

" My Caucasus ? Hermaphrodites ? " 

She explained to me that they are the children of 
Caucasian women seized by the djinns, and that they 
have the power of transforming themselves sometimes 
into women, sometimes into men. It was a revelation 
to me. I had not only never met one in the Caucasus, 
I had never even heard them mentioned. I begged 
that she be brought. 

She came ; she was a young woman with a very 
sweet contralto voice. She had fled from the Caucasus 
with a young girl who was escaping from tyrannical 
parents who had sold the child to the Tartars. An 
intelligent and cultured woman, she wished to earn her 
bread by teaching. But, hearing her masculine voice, 
the people believed her a child of the djinns and 
avoided her as one avoids the evil eye. Although in the 
baths she appeared simply as a young, slender woman, 
she was nevertheless refused registration in the schools, 
because it was supposed that she was a hermaphrodite 
who had transformed herself into a woman in order 
to deceive every one. 

As a hermaphrodite, she was banished from Christian 
society, and as a Christian she found it impossible to 
work among the Mussulmans. Therefore, snared in 
this net of virtue, she and her young companion were 
dying of hunger. The Mussulmans, less virtuous 
than the Christians, had in simple charity sent them 



from time to time a little food. And finding herself 
welcome in the house of Envar-ed-Doule, our herma- 
phrodite wept with happiness, and kissing our hands 
asked only to obey our wishes. 

Our difficulty was solved. We clapped our hands 
for joy, and busied ourselves with heaps of brocades, 
veils, silver and gold tissues and caskets of jewels, 
choosing the robes we should wear. Ah yes, beyond 
doubt I should have been wiser, more thoughtful, more 
prudent ! But I was wearied to death of monotony, my 
spirit was smothering, panting for freer air. I was 
young and reckless. As for the queen, she did not care 
for anything ; she sought only a little amusement to 
make her forget the burden of living. 

Accompanied, then, by this child of a djinn, the 
queen and I went to give our little entertainment 
before the Shah on the evening of his coronation. 

We appeared before the young Shah in the strictest 
seclusion. Every effort of the curious ambassadors who 
desired to see this unique spectacle was politely baffled. 

Outside, about the palace, fire-dragons were brighten- 
ing the dark sky and falling, hissing, into the ponds 
where the frightened willows hid their locks. Thou- 
sands of pine-torches threw a lurid light upon the high 
walls of the garden and the sombre silhouettes of noble 
Persian women, draped in black, grouped beneath the 
mournful cypresses. 

Within the palace, in a little room draped with 
tapestries, servants helped us to remove our heavy 
veils. The moment arrived. A hand held back the 
drapery, and I entered the royal presence. 

I found myself in a sumptuous hall paved with 



squares of marble. Stalactites of mirrors covered the 
ceiling and reflected thousands of lights that animated 
the voluptuous walls hung with golden brocades. 
The burning wax of the candles perfumed the arcades 
and filled me with a drowsy warmth. 

On a throne of gold encrusted with jewels and 
surrounded by draped screens, the young Shah was 
seated. An attendant on either side fanned him, 
making the aigrettes of his crown waver like wisps of 
smoke. Beyond him, on a raised dais, stood the marble 
throne of Djimchide, the only grandeur that was left 
him from his ancestors of Persepolis. 

I prostrated myself. Beyond the curtains the musi- 
cians touched the strings of the thars. Music softer 
than the light of the candles and sweet as their perfume 
stole through the golden draperies. I rose, spreading 
my veils like transparent wings, and advancing into 
the open space began my dance. 

The reputation of the dancers of Persia, who were 
courtesans, prevented me from revealing freely to 
him all the grace of the Caucasians ; modesty re- 
strained my gestures. Beyond the curtains the 
musicians followed each motion with music. I 
expressed, with a poetry of movement as cool and 
chaste as the dawn, the awakening of the human soul 
to the beauty of love. When by chance my glance 
met that of the little Shah, he modestly lowered his 
beautiful velvety eyes. I then saw only the flash of 
the diamond lion which trembled on his forehead. 

I was the first woman he had seen since he became 
king. Fearing that a woman would corrupt him, the 
courtiers had surrounded him only with young princes 
whose love they intended to replace all others. What 



a fate, to be compelled to remember in every moment 
of his life that behind his curtains eves and ears as 
numerous as their arabesques recorded each of his 
gestures, each of his sighs ! In truth had he not the 
right, this unhappy king, to be a tyrant to this court 
which tyrannized over him even in the privacy of his 
alcoves ? 

I vanished from his eyes through the curtains. The 
vizir of Dar-Bar thanked me warmly in the name of the 
Shah, and informed me that the Shah had commanded 
that the order of knighthood, Shir and Khorshid, be 
conferred upon me. 

Imagine my joy ! I, a knight of the Lion and the 
Sun, the sun that I adore ! The queen and I returned 
to the house of Envar-ed-Doule talking of nothing else. 

Alas, the following day, the Regent Naib-ed-Saltaneh 
being dead, there could not be found in the whole 
kingdom of Persia, emancipated as it was, any official 
who would sign this firman. What ! confer the Shir 
and Khorshid upon a woman ? One would have been 
obliged to revolutionize all the empires of Islam. 

The whole kingdom talked of me. A thousand 
stories were invented about me, to thrill the bazaars, 
the baths, the birouns and indorouns. No one doubted 
that I had become a traitor to my religion. It was not 
true. I was, and I remain in spite of everything, a good 
Christian who believes in God and Paradise, without 
too much belief in Satan or in hell, the necessity of them 
appearing to me doubtful. If God has tolerated all our 
sins here below, where He has given us so many joys, 
why should He deprive us of Paradise ? And in any 
case, how would hell help us ? 

But my piety, different from that of others, was in my 



own soul. The Christian world called me a heretic and 
a courtesan, and these terrible epithets were crowned 
with the name, " Daughter of Sodom and Gomorrah." 

Too late, I perceived my imprudence. Who among 
the Christians could believe that the garden which 
separated the indoroun from the biroun had saved me 
from the indiscreet gaze of the young Mussulman 
princes ? What evil were not loose tongues pouring 
upon my name ? 

These indignities penetrated like a blade of steel 
into my Armenian soul. All innocent as I was, I felt 
myself lost. Shame troubled my soul. I feared even 
violence, and left the house of Envar-ed-Doule only 
disguised or under cover of night. I knew that our 
Lord in Heaven does not trouble Himself to defend 
those who are attacked by evil tongues. 

I must leave the house of Envar-ed-Doule. But to 
do that, I must go away from Persia. I valued too 
highly the respect of our patriarchal Armenian society 
to be able to endure returning, as a sinner, to the 
company of the austere Araratians. Where could I go ? 
Fearful, I hesitated. Imagine how much courage I 
needed to go, alone, into countries far beyond the 
borders of everything I knew. 

An incident occurred to end my hesitation. 

I was returning from a fete which the most celebrated 
of the courtesans of Iran, Tadj-es-Saltaneh, princess 
and poetess, had given for her friends. A recklessness 
like that of the queen was beginning, in spite of my 
resistance, to harden in my own heart. Having 
nothing to lose, one can dare anything. And a curi- 
osity, mixed, I confess it, with some fascination, had led 



mc to that fete which was still intoxicating my senses. 

Darkness was falling from the sky upon the crooked 
crowded streets. The muezzins were already chanting 
the evening prayers. Leaning on the cushions of the 
carriage behind its curtains, I thought of the high 
walls which enclosed the little palace of Tadj-es- 
Saltaneh, I saw again the arched galleries where we 
had lain stretched out on the cushions, and the little 
dancers who had enchanted our eyes. I remembered 
their frail, delicate bodies that rolled at our feet to the 
rhythm of the stringed instruments. Their childish 
hands caressed us ; trembling, they lay upon us, their 
heads on our throats, and covered us with their per- 
fumed hair. 

I thought of this courtesan daughter of a king, who 
preferred the intoxications of music and love to the 
boredom of a high place near the throne. I admired 
the fierce pride with which she supported the name of a 
depraved woman, and I highly esteemed her will to live 
as she chose and not to exist a slave to the will of others. 
But for myself, I felt tired and broken, and the sun fled 
from mc. 

Ncaring the public baths, I was seized by a desire to 
lie on the hot slabs and let the servants softly splash my 
body with warm water. This repose would perhaps 
restore my power to think, to decide. The hour was 
late, I hoped to find myself alone. Wrapping myself 
in my veils, and commanding the carriage to wait, I 
hastened with trembling steps under the stone arches 
dimly lighted by pierced lamps. 

I was mistaken. In the great room a few Christian 
women, crouched on the slabs, were finishing their 
dressing. Recognizing me, they drew back as though 



I were a leper. Seeing in a corner a very old Persian 
woman, dried and withered as a mummy, I went 
toward her. Two servants were washing her magnifi- 
cent hair which fell down her horrible back and writhed 
on the stones. 

I addressed her respectfully in Persian. 

" Are you then indeed converted into a Mussulman, 
that you dare speak to me in Persian ? " the shrew 
asked me in a furious voice. 

" Forgive me, Khanoum," I said ; " I thought that 
you were Persian." 

She rose, trembling with anger, and cried in a 
hoarse voice, " What ? I — I, Mogdoussi-Khanoum, 
Pilgrim of Jerusalem, I, a Persian ! " And with her 
bony hands she threw upon me a pitcher of boiling 

Happily, the women seized her hands in time to 
prevent my being scalded to death. Painfully burned, 
I fled toward my carriage, pursued by the scornful 
laughter of hate. 

" Decidedly, decidedly, I must leave Persia," I 
thought, weeping in the carriage. 

" Mogdoussi ? " exclaimed the queen when I related 
the incident. " Why does your Prophet Messiah 
tolerate upon the earth her impious feet ? " 

I learned that half a century ago this shrew had been 
a veritable houri. The English ambassador, having 
seen her one morning gathering figs at the entrance 
of her father's garden, was amazed at the antique 
quality of her grave and serene beauty. He sent at 
once to her parents and bought her for an enormous 
sum, and during ten years she was the delight of the old 
milord. A gentleman and a Christian, in leaving 



Persia to take for himself a wife among his own people, 
the ambassador sent Mogdoussi with her parents to 
kiss the tomb of the Redeemer. This having made them 
all saints, on their return from Palestine the Christian 
world welcomed them as this rank deserved. The old 
bowed to the earth, the children piously kissed the 
hems of their garments and begged their benediction. 

This story dissolved all my perplexities. I decided 
to imitate the example of Mogdoussi ; that is to say, 
after having a little sinned, to go to kiss the tomb of 
Christ and then to return to my country to die highly 

A bishop warmly praised my intention, and gave 
me a letter addressed to our Patriarchs at Jerusalem. 
He recommended me highly to the Grand Pontiff, and 
asked for me the title of Mogdoussi. Sealed with the 
episcopal ring, this letter was carried against my heart. 

I prepared myself then to leave Persia. 

All the household of Envar-ed-Doule united in 
equipping me for the long journey. Having no confi- 
dence in banks, the queen and her mother fastened 
around my waist a belt heavy with gold coins. They 
suspended from one of my arms a silken purse filled with 
silver, and from the other a bag of copper money to 
be distributed to the beggars along the route. Several 
talismans, hung around my neck, protected me from 
demons or the evil eye of the wicked. 

The thing which troubled me was a hard piece of 
paper called " Passport." Finding it impossible to 
carry anywhere, I at last adjusted it on my head in the 
folds of my hair. Every one assured me that among 
Europeans I would be taken for a rogue without this 



paper, and that if I lost it I would be locked in dun- 
geons. This prospect so terrified me that every moment 
I assured myself that the paper was still in my coiffure. 

The hour of my departure arrived. The camels 
waited outside the gates. The queen embraced me ; 
Nadir wept. Tahia, who was to be sent back to the 
house of Assatour-Khan, prostrated herself to kiss my 
feet. Little Suhun, holding her child in her arms, 
kissed my hands and splashed them with her tears. 
The Arabian groom laid at my feet a rose of Assyria 
and a pomegranate. Hadji- Khanoum, the decrepit old 
sinner, hobbling on her crutches, offered me the last 
possession she treasured — a dagger from the sacred land 
of Mecca and Medine. A little apart from the women 
the Princes Kemal, Zelil and Aboubekir, in their sar- 
daris of black silk and their astrakhan caps, stood with 
their heads bowed to their breasts and their arms 
crossed in the gesture of respect. Before the adorable 
old mother, Envar-ed-Doule, I prostrated myself in 
gratitude for the maternal aif ection she had shown me, 
a stranger and a Christian. She gave me her bene- 

I placed myself upon the back of the kneeling camel. 
With a grunt, he rose, lifting me high above the turban 
of his master. All was ready. With the slow motion 
of a boat on the waves, I was carried away from the iron 
gates beyond which I had been so loved and so happy. 
The noises of the streets surged around me, terrifying 
as the voice of a strange sea. I turned my head to see 
for the last time, through my veils, the walls of the safe 
harbour I was leaving for ever, but I could not see them 
for my tears. 


Towards Jerusalem : Across the 

IT was evening. On the desert, between the vague- 
ness of sky and the vagueness of the vast level earth, 
we made our little camp. A tiny fire cast red light and 
black shadow on the small tents of striped silk. The 
camels, kneeling, ate their handfuls of date-seeds from 
the handkerchiefs spread before them. Far away a 
jackal howled. 

The full moon rose slowly, the desert became a lake 
of silver. The camels slept, the camel-drivers lay 
wrapped in their rugs. In their tents my two com- 
panions, old pilgrims going to Mecca, slept without a 
sound. The jackal was still. 

In all the universe, no sound, no movement. Only 
the pale moon, drowning the stars in its light. Not a 
tree, not a blade of grass. No horizon, no border 
between the silver mist of desert and the silver mist of 
sky. The universe dissolved into the mystery of light. 

In the silence, far away, a tinkling of little bells, the 
silver bells that follow with their rhythm the slow steps 
of the caravan camels. A voice comes out of the desert, 
singing to the moon. 

It is the voice of the camel-driver, complaining of the 
solitude. It is the lament of the lonely soul, the thirst 
for the impossible, the longing of the fugitive for rest. 

" Aman ! Ah aman ! " He is reproaching life for its 
shadows of death, for the death that he sees in this sky 



in this moon that he adores and that soon he will no 
longer see. The song itself dies in the vast silence. It 
is gone. Where ? 

Everything loses its contours. Where am I ? What 
am I ? A light melted into this immensity of light, 
lost, dissolved. . . . 

An imperceptible melody touches my ears. Is it the 
song of the stars dancing around the moon ? Is it my 
body singing with happiness ? Is it my soul, reaching 
the unattainable ? It is the mystic rapture of being 
one with the night and the moon. It exists, then. . . . 

The sun appears and restores form and outline to 
the earth. The desert is the desert, a floor of sand 
reflecting the heat of the solid sky. I am I, weary in a 
weary body. My soul is sobered ; no longer lost in 
immensities, it takes up the burden of to-day. Has it 
lost for ever the way to that mystic happiness ? No ; 
some day, somewhere, I shall find again that incom- 
municable happiness. 

We reached Baku, where I stopped to embrace my 
mother. She lived in our old caravanserai, the sole bits 
of debris left to us from the splendour of my childhood. 
Tired and worn with sorrows, she took me tenderly in 
her arms, and her tears fell on my cheek when she lifted 
her veils to kiss me. 

In the bare rooms of this poor house a few bits of rare 
pottery and an antique mirror contrasted strangely with 
their surroundings. Rahim, the son of our Tartarian 
baker, had saved them for me, during the burning of 
our great house. When, after our ruin and the death 
of my father, he learned that I had been married and 
was in Persia, he had shed tears. 



" Allah bless Khanoum Gucusal," he said after a 
short silence. " I have a marriage present for her, 
may she deign to accept it." 

Imagine my joy, after these years, to see again this 
mirror and these vases from our dear burned house ! 
At what risk he must have carried them away, in order 
to offer them to me ! 

He was married now, and no longer the son of a baker, 
but a baker himself. Though his shop was at the other 
end of the city, he still faithfully supplied my mother's 
household with bread, refusing all payment, and he 
still called her always, " Gondii Khanoum ; Madame, 
my neighbour." 

Sitting on the threadbare rugs, her hand in mine, my 
mother told me all these things, and asked me innumer- 
able questions. The gossip of the Caucasians, whose 
fancy had woven the most fantastic stories about my 
wound, had informed her of that. 

" Tell me," she asked, " what gave you this wound ? " 

" A hunter, my mother ; a hunter who did not 
know that I was hidden in the grass." 

" Kind God ! I might then have lost you, little 
flower of my garden ! " She clasped me in her arms, 
and her adoring face, filled with tenderness, told me 
what happiness she must have given my father, she who 
was still so ardent and so beautiful. 

She enclosed me within the garden of her love, as 
though her heart forewarned her of the fate that 
awaited me. However, she knew nothing of my life, 
and thought that he whose name I bore was waiting 
for me in Turkey. 

As for me, knowing that I must in some manner 
provide for myself, I had the intention of dancing for 

d.s. 207 o 


the Sultan during the festival of Bayram. The Tur- 
kish Empire was no longer ruled by the terrible Red 
Sultan, and to dance for a Turk who did not massacre 
Christians did not seem to me at all sinful. In those 
days we imagined that with the downfall of Abdul 
Hamid the world had forgotten for ever the words, war, 
massacre and tyranny. Remembering that my dances 
had pleased the Persian Shah, I confidently hoped to 
earn by my poetic art the praises of the Sultan as well, 
and to receive from him presents that would pave my 
way onward to Jerusalem. 

The few days that I spent with my mother at Baku 
were varied by strange emotions. On the second day 
after my arrival I received a visit from Knarik (The 
Lyre), a young girl, frail and pathetic. She was endur- 
ing the tragedy of her life. The story that she poured 
into my ears was the refrain of the eternal song ; she 
loved and had been loved ; her lover had tired of her 
and loved another, and the jackals of jealousy and pride 
were tearing her heart. 

" You, you too," she said, " I see it in your eyes — you 
are weary of life. Do you not desire always to die, to lie 
down in darkness and never rise again ? " And she 
proposed that we should depart together for the other 

At that moment the dark shores no longer allured me. 

" All things pass," I said to her. " There is a way 
that will carry you across all the rivers of sorrow." And 
I counselled her to mock everything a little, especially 

Knarik was shocked by this advice. 

" Seriously, Knarik, live for the sun," said I. 

" For the sun ..." she repeated, shrugging her 



shoulders. And she went away without saying another 

That same evening we learned that she had poisoned 
herself. Her body lay unburied in the cemetery : 
the Christians refused to bury it. I wrapped myself in 
a cloak, determined to go to her, although my mother 
protested. A furious wind was rocking all the ships 
in the harbour ; the very earth was flying from it in 
clouds of sand and small stones. " What comfort can 
you bring to the dead ? " said my mother. 

But it seemed to me that I could bring her back to 
life, that now I could find the right words to speak to 

The streets were deserted. In the cemetery the 
cypresses bent groaning in the torrents of air. Beneath 
them Knarik lay in a coffin torn open by the wind. 
Her long and heavy hair crawled like serpents on the 
slabs. They were alive, those tortured locks ; some 
rose into the air and coiled back in despair, others crept 
into the coffin to come out again, frightened. They 
trembled, they writhed, they suffered. And it seemed 
to me that from their midst she, the ardent and 
capricious Knarik, was speaking to me again of her 

I fled, feeling that those serpents were running after 
me to crawl up my veils. 

Naive, as arc all Orientals, Knarik had believed that 
death would unite her to her lover by indissoluble 
bonds. But he married soon afterward ; he is now 
the father of a family, and nourishes tenderly a pretty 
little round stomach of prosperity. 

To blot that memory from my mind, I went the 



next day to visit the celebrated artist, Asnive (The 
Noble), who wished to read to me her memoirs. She 
was a beautiful girl, proud and gay, with eyes like black 
clouds in which the lightning sleeps. Her gestures were 
imperious, and her steps haughty. She received me in 
a rich room, among cushions of every colour and 
innumerable precious tables and mirrors. 

She mocked the Knariks. Herself proud, passionate 
and commanding, she had conquered life, and forced it 
on its knees to give her everything she wished to have. 

What had she not seen, this girl of Stamboul ? 
Abandoned in the world, an orphan, penniless and 
hungry, at eleven years of age, she had become the 
imperious idol of all Turkey, she had aroused the 
passions of the Grand Pasha himself, played with him, 
flaunted him, refused him, preferring the joys of a 
wandering life to the dull respectability of a harem. 

" And one day not long after," she told me, " I was 
obliged to cut and sell my beautiful hair for a few 
pieces of gold. But what could I do ? I had seen a 
beautiful brocade that I desired for a gown." 

I listened to her with admiration and envy. What 
would I not give for such a spirit ? A spirit that 
disdained and broke all bonds, that feared nothing, 
dared everything, conquered and threw away without 
regrets, what an armour in which to fight the battle 
of life, the battle in which every one is wounded to 
death ! She began to read to me her memoirs. 

She had begun her career in the Great Square of 
Stamboul, during the fete that celebrated the circum- 
cision of the sons of the Sultan. These fetes lasted 
weeks ; the streets were a blaze of lights, the coffee- 
houses crowded, the gardens filled with song and 



feasting until dawn. From all this she rose like a 
fire-dragon into the sky of Stamboul, a dancer for 
whom the city went mad. Her feet walked on men's 
hearts, her caprices beggared the wealthiest ; they 
called her " Eyes of Fire." 

For four years she had upset the hearts of all Asia ; 
she had danced, sung, loved, hated, and now, still 
young, she had retired from the feasts to keep them in 
her memory before a hearth-fire at the borders of the 
Caspian Sea. 

While she was reading to me her record of these 
memories, a little monster, a senselessly grinning idiot, 
came in and offered me a tray on which were cups of 
Turkish coffee. I trembled with horror. 

" He is my child," Asnive said to me, " the chastise- 
ment of my sins, the victim of one of my angers." 

In one of her fits of passion she had beat upon the 
floor the head of this miserable child. 

I came away from her house, uncertain whether I 
most admired or regarded with horror the beautiful 

That evening I went to the house of my Aunt Nar- 
cissus, to condole with my cousin Satins in her sorrow ; 
death had taken from her her young husband. 

" Sister," she said to me, weeping, " if you had seen 
his face beautiful and serene in his shrouds, you would 
not have been able to believe that on his death-bed, 
while he was dying, he tried to strangle me in order 
to take me with him into the other world." 

I returned to my mother's house, troubled. After 
melancholy and gentle Persia, the Caucasus appeared 
to me tragic and horrible. It was no longer the Cau- 



casus of my childhood, the Caucasus of orchards and 
fruitful vines, where I had so much loved the song of 
the grasshoppers and the murmur of the cascades. It 
was now the Caucasus of the passionate and romantic 
soul, barbarous and cruel, indomitable in its rebellious 
barbarism. I found myself alien to all these dramas of 
naked souls and unchained passions. 

To reach the shores of the Black Sea in the west I 
must cross the Caucasus from one end to the other, and 
I planned to stop at Tiflis, where my Aunt Vosky (Gold) 
lived with her daughter Astrik (Star). Georgia was the 
country of my grandmother, a Mingrelienne, and my 
imagination pictured brightly a visit of several days 
among the care-free Georgians. 

I should say just what Georgia is. In the official 
schools we were told that Georgia was a province of 
Russia, of which the largest city was Tiflis. That was 
all we were taught about it. At home, my father said 
to us, " The beautiful kingdom of Georgia, of which 
Tiflis is the capital, is the heart of our Caucasus." 

Knowing the peculiar story of Georgia, it is difficult 
to say which opinion was right. The kingdom had been 
indeed independent. But the chiefs of Mingrelie, of 
Imerethis, and of Cachetie, three different Georgian 
tribes, disputed without ceasing. The neighbouring 
tribes, heathen and Mussulman, profited by these 
disputes to invade the Georgian territory. Tired of 
these endless quarrels, and exhausted by combat 
against the nomads, the King of Georgia decided to ask 
help of the Tsar. He had a document prepared, 
praying for the protection of Russia, and having 
sealed it with his seal he took the noblest of his princes 



and went himself to offer the document to the Tsar. 

He was received in St. Petersburg with the best grace 
in the world. To show the honour in which he was 
held at the Russian court, the Tsar placed his own body- 
guard around the Georgian king, and himself generously 
urged the princes to keep their own costumes. These 
garments, of a dazzling and noble picturesqueness, 
added to the beauty of the Caucasians, made the 
princes the sensation of all St. Petersburg. They were 
the favourites of the court, and the noble Russian 
ladies neglected no efforts to make them forget their 
homesickness for their mountains. 

Unfortunately, their king soon died, and little by little 
the princes, in the midst of fetes and entertainments 
like those of Paradise, ceased to think of their beautiful 
Georgia, and sold to the Russians their castles built 
among the cliffs. 

Soon after the death of the king the document that 
he had brought vanished in the enormous archives of 
the Tsar. For convenience, too, the name of Georgia 
disappeared, being replaced by " the province of 
Tiflis." And all this happened so quietly that without 
suspecting it Georgia had become a part of the Russian 

Only a few faithful patriots still remembered the 
kingdom of Georgia and dreamed of her recovered 
independence. They met in quiet places among their 
cliffs to consider what steps to take. But these confer- 
ences ended in disputes with the Armenians among 
them, who demanded, when Georgia was freed, the 
little bit of the country called Zanguc/.our, which 
Armenian horsemen with the aid of a fire-dragon had 
conquered a little while before the Flood. And the 



discussions ended with the clashing of drawn daggers, 
until the Cossacks arrived and carelessly dispersed the 

Next day, the good wine of Cachetie made them 
forget it all, patriotism and independence and the little 
bit of Zanguezour. Gathered around a blazing bonfire, 
they sang and danced to the sound of the tambourines. 
And from time to time, remembering the prison-for- 
tress of Metzket where their chiefs languished in 
dungeons, their blood flamed with desire for vengeance, 
they swept the air with horns filled with foaming wine, 
and threatened the Tsar to burn all Russia on their 

The fete which these Georgians gave for the viceroy 
on my arrival in Tiflis completely upset that old 

In a ring of blazing torches he sat helpless while a 
number of handsome mountaineers executed before 
him the Dance of the Swords, while I danced in the 
midst of the flashing blades the famous " lezguinka " 
of the mountains. His face whirled before me, pale 
with terror ; his trembling hands clutched the arms of 
his great chair ; he turned his head piteously from side 
to side. And when, thrusting our naked swords toward 
him with our habitual abandon, we caught a glimpse 
of his eyes amidst the glittering of the steel, they were 
staring like those of a trapped animal. 

The viceroy died a few days later. Perhaps the 
emotions he had felt had contributed to shorten his 

After this fete, I was offered two banquets. The 
first was in a great house, among the Society of Tiflis, 
and left me few memories. But the second, given me 



by a sword-merchant, was one of the most singular of all 
my life. 

We settled ourselves on the divans around the table 
at noon, and did not leave them until dawn. 

During the whole day, I heard only, " Flower of my 
soul, taste this ; it is made expressly for you. Light of 
our eyes, this little partridge was killed for you alone, 
and the raisins with which it is stuffed were gathered 
by my grandfather, who tastes at this moment the 
celestial grapes in the vineyards of Our Father and His 
Son and the Holy Ghost." Here, at the sound of these 
sacred names, -a large sign of the cross, repeated by the 
entire assembly. 

" And this good wine of Cachetie, and this melon 
from Charjou — eat, little dove. Deign to accept 
these grapes from Ourmi, and this dish of our grain, 
which the sun has ripened in expectation of your 
coming. Bright-winged Queen Bee, this morning I 
rose before the dawn, that I might offer you an unfor- 
gettable souvenir — ah, here it is ! " And there was 
set before me a bowl filled with the milk of mares. 

Could I draw back before such splendour of good will ? 

But my situation became every moment more des- 
perate before this obligation to eat everything urged 
upon me by this excellent merchant, who thought me 
thin and assured me that plumpness would beautify me. 

And I ate. I ate with the resignation of a martyr, of 
a saint. I ate desperately without seeing or hearing, 
until even my imagination could no longer picture a 
miracle that would rescue me from this fete. 

After twelve hours of eating, at midnight the appear- 
ance of a whole new scries of dishes overcame me ; I 
began to weep. 



" It is loneliness," the kindly merchant explained to 
the astonished guests. " This unfortunate little one 
has only an aunt in all this immense Tiflis. Ehe, you ! " 
he called to the musicians, " sing for this orphan ! 
Sing, ' O my native prairies, mountains and abysses.' 
And you, little core of my soul, dry your tears and taste 
this honey made by your own wild bees of Shamahka." 

And again the musicians began to sing, and I — to eat. 
Toasts in my honour, jewelled with incredible hyper- 
boles, mingled with the songs of the musicians. From 
time to time some one would dance, accompanied by 
clapping of hands from the whole assembly. And all 
these sounds, this movement, the lights reflected on 
silver and copper and silks, had for me the quality of a 
nightmare. I saw them as one in the delirium of 
torture sees the heated irons and the shadows of his 
tormentors, and I swallowed, swallowed desperately and 
for ever, while from time to time a tear stole down my 

Finally, at the first crow of the cock, I was permitted 
to reach my bed. 

That same evening I was to dance again, because, the 
first success having turned my head, I had promised to 
dance a second time at the Opera. We have, then, an 
Opera ! Ah yes, indeed, the ugly centre of Tiflis, 
European with a colouring of Russia, offers everything 
that the Parisian finds at home, here in the capital of 

Therefore at noon my aunt aroused me, and to over- 
come the effects of that incredible banquet she led me 
to the warm baths that spout from the rocks near Tiflis. 

After spending a few hours lying in the pools of 



nearly boiling water that smell like rotten eggs, we came 
out dying with fatigue. A long robe covered my 
trembling body, a few shawls draped my head and 
shoulders. Surrounded by all their tinsel, my nose 
shone like a poppy in bloom. My very eyeballs, like 
those of the owls, were encircled with red. 

" Let us stop to see my new jewels," my aunt pro- 
posed, halting our carriage before the shop of a jeweller. 

" Very well," I said, past caring about my appearance. 

The jeweller showed us some designs, but hurriedly 
and without interest. He feared that the delay would 
cost him his chance to get a place at the Opera, to see 
the charming dancer of Shamahka. He spread before 
us with a careless hand the golden ornaments that he 
had chiselled, in which we saw reproduced, beneath the 
contours of mountains as light as clouds, fantastic pea- 
cocks, eagles and gazelles. He poured upon us extrav- 
agant praises of the dancer, more beautiful than the 
moon and the evening star, more graceful than smoke 
in a gentle breeze. 

Vosky glanced at me laughing. 

" More beautiful than my niece ? " she asked him. 

The jeweller looked at me with disdain. " I do not 
wish to say that your niece is ugly," he replied ; " but it 
is impossible to compare the day with the night." 

" Have you then lost the light of your eyes ? " my 
aunt laughed. " For here is your dancer of Sha- 

" Aunt ! " I cried, to stop her, but it was too late. 

It was not at all vanity that spoke in me. No, but 
here I saw an artist with a soul. In the jewels that lie 
created I saw the artist's dream of the impossible 
beauty. I saw mountains like those that touch cclcs- 



tial skies, creatures that browse on the flowers of Para- 
dise. The lakes he had designed were circles filled with 
winged fish. Undoubtedly his imagination had made 
of his dancer a being also as unreal, as winged and golden 
as his designs. In identifying my person with that of 
the Almee who had kindled his soul at the fete of the 
torches, my aunt had assassinated his dream. 

The poor jeweller could not at first believe it. 
But seeing my denials sincerely contradicted by my 
aunt, " Oh, what have you told me, madame ! " he said 
sadly, his eyes filling with tears. I, too, was on the verge 
of weeping. 

It was then that I understood that a dancer is more 
than a woman ; that she is a dream, and that to preserve 
it she should show the world only her unreal self. 

Perhaps some day I shall regret having shown in 
these pages the reality behind the veils. But ... It 
amuses me for the moment ; that is all I ask of these 

The morning after my success at the Opera, three 
youths of Akoulis came to beg me to take part in a 
fete which was to be given for Mary, the Mother of 
Christ, in their city. 

" We wish to play ' The Brigands,' by Schiller. 
The heroes of that play are not very different from us. 
As for scenery, what more could we desire than our own 
cliffs ? Will you play the role of Amalie ? " 

" But I have no European robes." 

" A long Caucasian chemise and unbound hair is all 
that is necessary." 

" But what will the role be ? " 

" You read something to Franz, an old, ugly creature 



who is in love with you, while all your dreams are for 
Carlos, the bandit. You will have to weep a little." 

" It is, then, a tragedy ! Never would I know how ! " 

" You need only sigh at each word." 

Their prayers were so moving and their sorrowful 
eyes so pleading that at last I consented. 

That afternoon I left Tiflis to accompany them to 
their city, a former Armenian capital hung above an 
abyss in the heart of the wild mountains that surround 
Mount Ararat. Never will I forget that journey up 
the savage cliffs, once drowned beneath the waters 
that carried the ship of the patriarch Noah. 

The sun was descending when, the mules being 
unable to climb higher on the precipitous trails, we 
dismounted from the saddles to go on foot. The 
desert and the cliffs were a reddish mauve beneath a 
sky rosy with sunset. The air was the colour of red 
wine. Our flesh appeared to be of bronze, and it 
seemed to me that our very robes exhaled light. 

Akoulis, capital of Armenia before the days of Ghen- 
gis Khan, has kept its air of primitive times. Within 
its walls, amid houses cut in the living rock and covered 
with wild vines, a torrent with a thousand cascades falls 
into an abyss. The hundreds of rifles fired in honour 
of my arrival did not cover the sound of its roaring. 
We were met by Ovi, the young ruler of Akoulis, who 
led me to his house, where I was received by all the chief 
men of the city. Ovi, a veritable hero of Schiller's 
fancy, was to play the part of Carlos. 

And we played Schiller, on the verge of the cascade. 
Our audience crouched upon the roofs, clung to the 
branches of the trees, hung on the vines. A row of 
torches were our footlights, the roar of the waters our 



orchestra, and the sighs of the listeners mingled with 
sighs of the trees. It was a setting truly Schillerian. 

The fame of the spectacle reached even Lower 
Akoulis in the depths of the abyss. A delegation came, 
begging us to show " the European bandits " to them. 

We consented. 

After the play, by the light of torches, we placed our 
theatrical costumes upon an ass, and began the climb 
back to Upper Akoulis. The moon lighted our way. 
The climb up the walls of the canon was almost 
perpendicular. I was advised to cling to the tail of 
the ass, which I did, and the ass, accustomed thus to 
aid the women of these mountains, generously supported 
my steps. 

Arriving weary at the house of Ovi, we could not 
leave the beauty of the Araratian night. We mounted 
to the roof and remained awake, sitting at the edge of 
this flat rock which was the verge of the precipice. 

The poplars trembled in a wind. Small and pale, 
the moon hastened through the clouds. On the 
heights above us a storm thundered like an old man in 
anger, and the cascades, frightened, flung themselves 
into the darkness far below. The abyss became darker 
and darker. The white cliffs that walled it seemed a 
tomb. An ocean of fog rose to the rim of the moun- 
tains. The abyss was swallowed in its waves ; only our 
roof-top remained visible on a white sea. 

I thought of Noah. In his ark he must have felt 
himself as isolated and lost in space as we upon this roof. 

It was with sincere regret that I left that savage and 
beautiful spot guarded from the world by jagged and 
indomitable cliffs. Accompanied by the sound of tam- 



bourines from all the roofs, I said farewell to my host 
and began to descend the trails. An escort of moun- 
taineers accompanied me as far as Djoulfa, where I 
embarked on a train for Batoum. 

That train, as rapid as a caravan of camels, enchanted 
me. Rarely does one see in our countries such a 

Under lock and key, in one of its boxes, I felt myself a 
prisoner. The motion of the train, its noise and its 
speed, combined with the sense of those enclosing walls 
to terrify me. But the amiable conductor stopped the 
train whenever we asked it, and allowed us to gather 
flowers, to chase butterflies, or to rest from the fatigue 
of the journey on sunny hill-sides. For all that, we 
travelled with almost the speed of a caravan, and arrived 
at Batoum in four days. 

The Black Sea roared before me. Its waves spat foam 
on the shores. For the first time I lost heart for the 
journey, and asked myself why I had undertaken to 
venture alone among all the perils of the world. 

" Why is it called the Black Sea ? " I asked. 

" Because," I was told, " its sombre sky shadows its 
waves and whirlpools filled with the dead." 

That night, I well remember, I slept badly. 


Towards Jerusalem : Constantinople and 

I HAD left the Caucasus three days before, on a little 
boat that miserably made its way across the stormy 
waves of the Black Sea. It was dawn. We were 
entering the waters of the Bosphorus. On the deck, 
wrapped in a cloak, I stood watching the sky grow 
light. In the grey waters rocks as sharp as the teeth of 
sea-monsters showed here and there. They were the 
Islands of the Princes. 

Before us appeared the cupolas, the minarets, the 
wooden houses of Constantinople. Thousands of boats 
passing beneath the bridges gave the city a merry aspect. 

For thirty years the hate of Abdul Hamid for the 
race of his mother, an Armenian dancer, had made of 
this city a slaughter-house. For thirty years not an 
Armenian could enter or leave it, under pain of death. 

I had letters to many friends of my friends, who 
offered to show me Constantinople. My first visit was 
to the mosque of Aya Sophia. The exterior, encum- 
bered with crowded buildings, told me nothing. Its 
coloured walls still bore traces of the Grecian paintings 
of Byzance, which had been covered by a rough layer 
of whitewash. Only a wing here, a head there, appeared 
to protest against the barbarism of the conquerors. 

Within, the immense dome gave me an impression of 
the infinity of the sky. I understood why the fierce 



Sultan Mahomet himself, entering it on horseback, had 
been overcome by the genius of the artist who had 
created this temple. 

" It is indeed the house of God," he said, and he 
dismounted from his saddle. But the sincerity of his 
admiration did not at all hinder the good Mussulman 
from defacing the precious paintings, because according 
to Mohammed the prophet, images profane the 

I decided to spend my short time in Constantinople 
in learning that which most interested me : the Turkish 
woman and her art of the dance. Therefore, instead of 
dancing for the Sultan, I conceived the idea of giving a 
charitable spectacle among Turkish women, knowing 
that my dances, the Persian music and my Caucasian 
robes would greatly interest them. 

Two Armenians, who at that time occupied the happy 
posts of vizirs, proposed that I should present this 
idea to the Turks. I was invited to a meeting of the 
Committee of Beneficence. 

I arrived, then, in a magnificent hall. A few 
Turkish officers, appearing to be amiable, questioned me 
in French to prevent my speaking the Tartarian of the 
Caucasus which they did not understand. They sug- 
gested that, instead of giving a fete for the women, I 
organize a grand gala performance for the men, which 
the ladies would be invited to sec from loges hung with 
black veils. 

I hesitated, asking myself if the Christians would not 
be shocked to see me dancing in my light robes before 
the Turks. To gain time, I asked to what purpose 
the receipts would be devoted. 

d.s. 223 p 


" To the building of the new Ottoman fleet," they 

" Well," I answered, laughing, " I am sure that my 
compatriots will applaud me if I give this fete on the 
condition that during the massacres the fleet will be 
friendly to the Armenians." 

I had forgotten that I was in Turkey, and that one 
does not speak of the rope in the house of the hangman. 

A sombre silence was my reply. Frightened by the 
effect of my words, I sought vainly a relenting glance. 
A brutal anger was revealed in every face. 

" Since you speak to us of massacres, Effenden," one 
of the officers said at last, " permit me to tell you that, 
if the Armenians are massacred, it is because they 
themselves wish it." 

" I regret, sir, that I cannot understand the pleasure 
of having one's self massacred," I replied coldly, rising 
to leave. He tried to detain me to explain how the 
Armenians bring the massacres upon themselves, but 
in my anger I did not dare even to discuss the 

It is as Anatole France said in his discourse at the 
Sorbonne : " As the unhappy inspire most men with 
distaste, one seeks to find the fault in the victims, 
reproaching them for their weakness. Some, taking 
up the defence of the butchers, show them as chastising 
sedition, or revenging the Turkish population upon 
Christian usurers." 

We alone, Armenians and Turks, know the true 
causes of the slaughter ; the fear of the Turks that 
their country will be taken from them in fifty years by 
the Armenians, who multiply themselves as do all 
conscientious races, and the hatred of a barbarous 



conqueror for the superior culture of a defeated 

Regaining my own house, I reminded myself that it 
is hardly six centuries since the Turks abandoned their 
nomad life, and that in installing themselves at Stam- 
boul (the very name means " Found "), they found the 
Greeks and the Armenians, who gave to the Occident 
and to Asia Minor their ancient culture. Fifteen 
centuries ago, the Armenian archives contained already 
the most precious parchments, from which the bards of 
all countries drew knowledge. It is easily understood 
that the only means by which a conquering barbarian 
can subdue a people of superior culture is to extermin- 
ate them. This slaughter is the only defence which 
Turkey has against a culture which imposes itself by its 
inherent value, and which in reality will everywhere 
dominate barbarism. 

Yet I greatly admire the Turkish women, who are 
truly beautiful and worthy of admiration. But is this 
beauty not due to those innumerable beautiful 
Armenians who, during six centuries, have coloured the 
blood of the high-checked Mongolian race ? Europe 
does not know the numbers of adolescents who have 
disappeared into the Turkish harems. How many 
times, in six centuries, we have received the order to 
present on such a day so much gold, so many horses, 
and so many virgins and youths ! And all this youth 
and beauty, become Mussulman by force, has dis- 
appeared into the harems, to contribute there its grace 
to the next Turkish generation. 

All these reflections, however, did not prevent 
my rash words from ending my first attempt to 
approach the Turk. 



There still remained for me to know the Turkish 
women. I awaited impatiently the visit of a lady 
which had been announced to me. She arrived one 
day at my house, preceded by a servant, both con- 
cealed in black veils. 

They unveiled themselves. The lady was a young 
Turk about twenty years old. Her eyes, in spite of 
her smile, expressed sorrow. She sharply reminded me 
of some one. All my mind was given to the search for 
that elusive resemblance. What was my surprise when 
I realized at last that she reminded me of — myself ! 

After the customary greetings I offered them coffee, 
and waited for them to explain the aim of their visit. 

We were seated upon a broad divan, the servant 
squatting near us on the carpet. Lit by the sun, my 
house was like a lantern sailing above the waters of the 
Bosphorus. A voluptuous wind came softly through 
the windows, bringing the distant murmur of the city. 

" My name is Nasle Khanoum," said the young 
Turk. " All Stamboul knows of me." 

" My mistress is the most beautiful of all the women 
of Stamboul," said the servant, thus revealing to me 
that she had been the lady's nurse. 

" I have learned," continued the lady, " that you 
wish to give a fete in public. I have come to propose 
to you a small intimate entertainment, for the pleasure 
of my friends. Would you be willing to come to my 
house ? If you think that loose tongues might speak 
lightly of this little affair, ah, well ! we will collect a 
few paras, which we will distribute next day to the 
poor. Does the idea please you, Khanoum ? " 

I found the idea amusing, and, thinking that I saw 
before me one of the most renowned of Turkish 



courtesans, I accepted the offer. She hugged me 
delightedly, kissed me with tenderness, and uttered a 
thousand charming compliments. Seeing my photo- 
graph, she kissed it and hid it beneath her robes. 
Then, always laughing, and speaking rapidly, some- 
times in French, sometimes in Turkish, she left, 
delighted by my promise. 

I called my servant, an Armenian of the provinces, 
who hardly knew her own language, speaking only 
Turkish, as many do who fear the massacres and prefer 
to pass for Turks, although in their hearts remaining 
fervent Christians. 

" Do you know some one who is called Nasle 
Khanoum ? " 

" Every one knows her better, Elfenden, than the 
light of his own eyes." 

" Who is her father ? " 

" A great pasha, Effenden." 

" And her mother ? " 

" A Christian like myself, EiTcndcn. But God keep 
you from saying to her that her mother was Christian. 
She would tear your eyes out." 

" Where is she, this mother ? " 

" May God illumine her soul and open to her the 
gates of Paradise ! At the age of thirteen years she 
was led to the harem of the Pasha, she was baptized 
Mussulman, and her name Hamass was changed to 
Fatma. She went from this world at the end of a few 
years of tears and sorrow. Nasle is her daughter." 

" Is she married, this Nasle ? " 

" Unhappily, Effenden, no. Being mocked for her 
Christian origin by the children of the other wives of 
the Pasha, she was unable to endure their insults. She 



fled to her nurse, who brought her up as her own 

" And her father has never reclaimed her ? " 

" If she were a boy, Effenden, he would certainly do 
so, but she is a girl, and therefore of no value, as you 
know. She was left to live as seemed good to her. 
However, Effenden, what does it matter how one 
lives ? All of us will one day go under the earth, and 
the good will be food for worms, no less than the 

This story interested me very much, and I im- 
patiently awaited the day of the fete, when I would see 
Nasle Khanoum again. 

She lived in the purely Asiatic quarter, among the 
vegetable markets, in a street where the merchants went 
by singing their merchandise. The exterior of the 
house was poor, the court was small and dingy. But 
on entering the doors I felt an atmosphere intimate 
and picturesque. Divans along the four walls con- 
tinued even as far as the moucharabia. The corners 
of the rooms, draped with tapestries, formed little 
tents, lighted by silver lamps encrusted with mother- 

Nasle came flying to me, chattering French and 
Turkish together. In an instant I was surrounded by 
perhaps twenty Turkish women, who all talked at once. 
One said that her mother was ill, and wept. Every one 
embraced and consoled her, offering her cups of coffee, 
drying her tears and begging her to laugh. We 
settled ourselves upon the divans, taking little cups of 
coffee and cigarettes from the trays which servants 
offered. Every one was animated, gay and childishly 



One after another the women danced and sang. 
The sensuous songs and the chromatic scales shocked 
my ears. I found this strange succession of notes 
harsh and painful, and few of their dances reminded 
me of the Caucasus. They were more sensuous and 
much less spiritual than ours. 

I showed them some of my dances, accompanying 
myself with the grave songs of my country. When I 
had finished them and seated myself beside Nasle, I 
found her sad. She leaned her pretty head upon my 

" I love your songs," she said. " They remind me 
of those my mother sang to me in my infancy," and 
she wept. 

" Why do you weep, Nasle ? " 

" I do not know," she replied. 

I pressed her against me. Perhaps I had awakened 
in her the consciousness of her origin, she who carried 
in her veins the Aryan blood of her mother. 

" Will you be my sister for one night ? " she asked 
me, drying her tears. 

" Always," I replied. " What is it you desire ? 
Tell me." 

" Stay here in my home to-night." 

" Yes." 

She clapped her hands, laughing like a happy child. 

When the other guests had gone, her nurse dressed 
us in long chemises and hid our hair in turbans. Seeing 
me appear thus as a Turk, Nasle laughed for minutes 
together, like a crazy person. The old nurse served us 
a little dinner upon a copper tray, and after bringing us 
fresh water in which to wash our hands, she left us 
alone together. 



Squatting on either side of a brazier, warming our 
hands, we spent the whole night gossiping. From 
time to time, caressing my bare arms and my hair, 
Nasle said to me in her lazy voice, " Aman, aman ! 
How beautiful you are ! If I were only your hus- 
band ! " 

In spite of seeming so open and sincere by nature, 
she disclosed to me nothing whatever of her life. 
What she learned of mine was all that I myself knew. 

When I spoke of love she said, " As for me, no. I 
would not love even a vizir. Men are all alike ; only 
their robes are different. The heart of none of them 
is worth the paring of a finger-nail." She spoke with 

Angry to have confided to her all my soul, I courte- 
ously left her house in the morning, and did not see 
again that artful one who concealed all her thoughts 
beneath the appearance of so much intimacy. 

A few days later I visited the house of a great 
Turkish lady, where I found nothing interesting. The 
furnishings were European, a style that has always 
appeared to me tiresome and without beauty. The 
women came hidden beneath their veils, but when they 
rid themselves of these coverings, I saw before me the 
Khanoums of Bouk-Dere, corseted and dressed like 

One played on a piano the sonatas of Chopin, the 
waltzes of Schumann. Another recited verses of 
Lamartine and of Musset. 

As I did not find picturesque these Asiatics with their 
European pretensions, I left this house early without 
having been amused. 



It was night when I arrived at my gates. A desperate 
barking seemed to come from a distance. What was 
my horror to see near my knees the distorted face of 
a man who barked like a dog, his eyes full of sad- 

The blood became snow in my veins. I tried to cry 
out, but had no voice. Happily, the door opened, and 
I was supported half -fainting into the house. 

He was a man bitten by a mad dog. In Constanti- 
nople, madness is considered incurable, and these 
unfortunates are abandoned to die in the streets. 

The Turkish house in which I lived on the shores of 
the Bosphorus adjoined that of two Frenchwomen who 
had come from Paris to teach their language in the 
capital of Turkey. They lived there with two Arabian 
officers, pupils who had become their masters. The 
two teachers, young and pretty, were deeply in love 
with these handsome and charming men. A little 
girl of sixteen years, Annette, served them all. 

On the other side of my house I. had as neighbour a 
Georgian whose temples were white with age. He had 
never spoken to me, but in the evenings he sat at the 
window of his moucharabia and played for hours the 
melodies of my country. Every night I went to sleep 
carried into mists of happiness by the little silver boat 
of his music. 

One evening as my lids were closing I was aroused 
by a knocking at my door. " Who can be coming at 
this hour ? " I asked myself, in surprise. My servant 
was asleep. I opened the door. 

It was Annette. Pale and faltering, she wept. 

" What is the matter, poor Annette ? M 1 asked, 



taking her in my arms. Silently she held out the 
corpse of a tiny infant. 

Trembling with horror, I supported her towards my 
bed. What was to be done ? " Do not tell my 
mistresses ! O my God, do not tell them ! " she 
begged me, fainting. Her life seemed to be ebbing 
away ; her hands were growing cold and her heart 
hardly beat. I dared not call the servants, whose 
gossip would spread the story through all the bazaars. 

Suddenly an idea came to me. I went to my win- 
dow, opened it, and knocked at the panes of the 
Georgian. They opened, and I saw the astonished 
face of my kindly old neighbour. " At such a late 
hour ? " said his surprised eyes. 

" Do not awaken anyone," I said to him in our 
own language. " Come to me quickly." 

In a moment he came in, perturbed. In the light 
of the lamp by my bed he saw Annette. I was trying 
to pour a few drops of wine between her white lips. 

" She is dying," I said. " Help me to save her." 
I showed him the child. He paled and drew back. 

" Horrible ! " he murmured. Then, " A doctor 
must be called." 

He hurried away. When he returned with an old 
doctor, there was still time to save Annette. The 
doctor promised to cover the tragedy with his silence, 
but he would not take away the little body. " I do 
not take charge of that," he repeated firmly. 

The Georgian took my trembling hand. " Do not 
be afraid," he said. " To-night we will bury it in the 
Bosphorus. Until I return, keep it under lock and 
key in one of your chests." 

That day was the most wretched of my whole life. 



At evening, when I had dismissed the servants, the 
Georgian entered through the window. He wrapped 
in paper the little dead child, which seemed to be 
sleeping. Profoundly moved by the little stiff body, 
we were silent. 

Wrapped in my veils, I met the Georgian outside my 
gates, and we hastened to the water's edge without 
saying a word. The Georgian helped me into a little 
boat. " I have rented this skiff for the whole night," 
he said. " I am a good rower, and if you like, we may 
stay on the water until dawn." 

The Bospho'rus was more beautiful than a dream. 
We seemed to be in an immense palace whose sapphire 
walls were thickly set with diamonds. In the mirror 
of the water the silver fire of the stars crossed the 
golden fire from the windows of Turkish houses. 
Many little boats were gliding in and out of the 
shadows of the bridges. They were filled with 
passengers who laughed and sang. Their stringed 
instruments scattered clear notes behind them. Sharp 
exclamations of boatmen, song and music coming from 
the cafes, salty odours of the sea, nocturnal barking of 
dogs, white wraiths of minarets — it seemed to me that 
I was in the midst of a splendid fete where a gay and 
nonchalant humanity gave itself freely to the embraces 
of joyous life. 

Far from the peopled ways, among the sleeping reeds, 
the body of the child went slowly to the waters' depths. 

We were soon in the open Bosphorus, in the path <>l 
the moon. To bring me forgctfulncss, the Georgian 
sang his mountain songs. Our boat swayed gently, 
following the caprice of wind and water. Like a great 
beehive, the city slept. Seagulls tore the air with 

2 33 


their spasmodic cries ; dolphins played heavily in the 

" Soon he will be eaten by the crabs, the little child 
to whom birth and death were one," I thought. It 
seemed to me that all the border reeds were reproach- 
ing the world because he would never know the strange 
keen flavours of life. 

" Oh, if he had been born in the house of Envar-ed- 
Doule ! " I thought ; " how tenderly this little light 
would have been sheltered. But on the borders of the 
West the breath of civilization has extinguished it 
before it burned." 

I felt a cold wind blowing upon me from the dark- 
ness that lay over those strange lands. Already a chill 
was entering my blood, that had been so warmed by 
the sun of the East. 

After a spectacle given for the Valide-Sultane upon 
a little island the name of which I have forgotten, I 
was persuaded to leave Constantinople for Egypt, to 
appear in the grand fete that X . . . Pasha was giving 
on the anniversary of the Khedive's coronation. 

This journey would allow me to see Greece, the 
country of romance and legend, so much sung by our 
poets under the name of Iounane. 

To prepare myself for seeing with my eyes this 
beautiful country I set myself to reading Homer. His 
name had been known to me from my infancy, for the 
biography of Ferdousi, which my father made us 
learn by heart, began with these words, " The poet 
Ferdousi, the Homer of Persia . . ." This began 
and ended all my knowledge of Homer. 

As much as Ulysses displeased me by his unscrupulous 



tricks, his mean-spirited prudence, and his stupidity, 
so much Homer himself captivated me by his descrip- 
tions of nature and of the customs of the Greeks. I 
found myself at home in his pages. I found there the 
same patriarchal manners that are ours, the same 
custom of the women to veil themselves and to live 
separated from the men. The same garments, the 
same weapons, the same improvised beds in the 
alcoves, just as we have them at home. The same 
hospitality, and the same sincere respect for foreigners 
and for age. 

In going to' Greece, then, I would not find myself 
in a strange land. 

But when, after passing the imposing Dardanelles 
among the grey walls of the rocks, I disembarked in 
Greece, I found there more of European Turkey of 
to-day than of the Greece of Homer. The type of 
the Greeks little resembled the homeric figure of 
Ulysses. Small, swarthy and agile, they were more 
like the debris of a great civilization, as their beautiful 
ruins are the debris of their great cities. 

The ruins of the Acropolis and of the Parthenon ! 
What pure and harmonious beauty ! These frag- 
ments alone would make me humble before antiquity. 
I kissed the marble body of a goddess ; time had made 
it rosy as the skin of a blonde, and the sun had given it 
the warmth of living flesh. What barbarian, to break 
the frescoes of Philias, in order to carry them away as 
trophies and lock them in the cold walls of museums ! 

The sun was sinking on the red horizon. Rose- 
coloured was the dry country-side, rose-coloured the 
contours of the mountains. This modern Athens 
made me regret the Athens of long ago more than the 



bazaars and gardens of Persia made me regret the 
Persia of Cyrus and of Haroun-al-Raschid. 

I realized that the beautiful antiquity of Greece 
exists to-day only in my country, where it has been 
preserved unchanged in the amber of our reverence 
for ancient traditions. 


Towards Jerusalem : Egypt 

A YELLOW line traced between the sea and sky, 
a few palm trees, frail and motionless — that is 

We disembarked at Alexandria, by the lighthouse 
which the ancients counted among the seven wonders 
of the world. 

The catacombs. We entered there, Arabian lan- 
terns lighting for us the way that seemed to descend 
toward hell. The bones, the urns, the cold and 
darkness, all spoke of the adoration which the austere 
Egyptians offered to Death. These walls, decorated 
with golden images, were once witnesses of the Egyp- 
tians in embroidered tunics, who descended these steps, 
lighted by their torches, to render homage to their 
dead. Humid, gloomy and bare, they repulse me 
now by their nakedness. Quick, quick, let us fly from 
this tomb toward the sunlight ! 

Leaving, I sought everywhere traces of Cleopatra. 
In a fragment of ancient carving done by a Greek 
sculptor, I saw her head. Dreamy and wilful, it is 
indeed the Oriental character. This Grecian artist, 
who perished many centuries ago, understood the 
nature of the great lovers of Asia, the profound and 
terrible passions of those queens, Balkis, Shamiram, 
the Marys of Magdala. . . . 

Dreaming before this fragment of stone that remem- 
bered the glorious Cleopatra, I recalled the legend of 
Semiramis and the great king, Ara the Beautiful. 



This legend says that Shamiram (Semiramis), intoxi- 
cated by the praises of their king, Ara the Beautiful, 
sung by the Armenian minstrels of Babylon, gave him 
her heart. She languished in her gardens among the 
sickly trees that sighed, like her, in the sands of the 
desert. She hated her austere palace and her little 
courtesans, thin and slight, and her artificial gardens 
that, like a mirage, made her thirst for the virgin 
woods of her own country, where, free and happy, she 
had been only a little princess. 

How, then, could she resist the charm of the poems 
sung to her by the Armenian singers ? They sang of 
their country of prairies watered by the Tigris and the 
Euphrates, and of the splendour of Ara the Beautiful, 
whose glory stretched from the Red Sea to the Black, 
and from the snows of Ararat to the desert of Shama. 
This king had been born from the embrace of the Sea 
with the Earth ; the Sky was the witness of this love, 
sang the minstrels. A red reed rose from the red 
sea, from this red reed shot a flame, and from this 
flame rose an adolescent. His hair was of fire, and his 
eyes were two suns, and his soul was the sea. 

Shamiram loved this king, Ara the Beautiful, and she 
sent her ambassadors to beg him to come to Babylon 
to honour her fetes. But Ara refused this honour ; he 
repulsed her love. The charms of the Queen of 
Babylon troubled him. His people would pay dearly 
for the intoxications their king might taste in the arms 
of such an enchantress. He dared not come to 

Shamiram had no hate, no anger, nor even resent- 
ment, against this king who haunted her dreams, but 
driven by the desire to see him, if only for one moment, 



she declared war upon him. However, she threatened 
with torture and death any of her soldiers who should 
dare to injure one hair of his head. 

Alas, in the ardour of battle, the error was made. 
Struck by an arrow, Ara the Beautiful fell. At the 
news of his death all the Armenians, old and young 
and even children, rose to avenge him with the blood 
of the conquerors. 

The Babylonians, fearing for their lives, announced 
to the people that the king was not dead, but a hostage 
in their hands. And in order to save themselves until 
the queen should arrive at the head of new troops, 
they said that every evening Ara the Beautiful would 
show himself to his people. 

Every evening, in fact, the king appeared at his 
window, acclaimed by throngs. Pale and beautiful, 
in his royal robes, he smiled gravely. Happy to see 
him every day, the Armenian people patiently awaited 
the arrival of the Queen of Babylon. 

Shamiram, at the head of her second army, has- 
tened across the deserts, to punish the murderer of the 
king whom she loved. 

She appeared in her triumphal chariot. Proud and 
impassive, she advanced toward the palace of Ara the 
Beautiful. She entered the great throne-hall, where 
the body of the king lay stretched out upon the 
cushions. At that sight, Shamiram was no longer a 
queen. A desolate woman, a lover mad with sorrow, 
she threw herself upon the body of the king and 
covered his face with tears and kisses. Such great 
sorrow was sacred ; the guards kissed their swords in 
sign of mourning, and retired to leave the queen alone 
with the dead. 

n.s. 239 Q 


In the morning, heralds announced to the Armenian 
people that their king, forced to lay his sceptre and his 
sword at the feet of a woman, had killed himself for 
pride ; that the Queen of Babylon was preparing his 
funeral as though he were her husband ; that her 
chariot would be draped in mourning, and that the 
only song of the conquerors would be the funeral 
chants for Ara the Beautiful. Touched by the tragic 
love of Shamiram, the Armenians made no resistance 
to their conquerors. 

Thus does the Orient revere, even though she be an 
enemy, one of the great lovers of Asia. The Occident 
would make of her, undoubtedly, a hysterical and 
perverted creature, such as Oscar Wilde makes the 
young and chaste Salome. 

But that fierce and poetic East is no longer in Egypt. 
I stood on the spot where the palace of Cleopatra had 
risen in a dream of beauty and passion. There remains 
of it nothing but an old hut. I entered it. An odour 
of onion and a close musty smell. An old Armenian 
lives there. She was crouched on a divan ; a white veil 
gathered into a head-band embroidered with pearls 
covered her hair. 

" I love to hear the whistling of the wind and the 
surge of the sea," she said to me. " Then I feel happy, 
thinking, ' I have a good fire and hot coffee, while many 
others are dying of cold.' " 

This is what remains of Cleopatra, in the very place 
of her palace and her great loves ! 

The Arab quarter is the only picturesque part of 
Cairo. All the rest is European. Between these two 
quarters one finds a city of prostitutes, whose houses 



are the first that Europeans build to civilize us. Here 
one sees old English women, in baby dresses, painted 
like clowns. They do a cake-walk, prancing ungrace- 
fully on awkward legs. All this seduction, they say, 
costs but a few cents to all passers-by. 

This degradation of love, this trampling beneath 
muddy boots so much of charm, of beauty, of poetry, 
affected me even to tears. What human brutality could 
so defile the temples of the spirit, so cruelly use the 
hearts and bodies of women ? A profound nausea rose 
from the depths of my soul. In vain I remembered 
the cruelties of Asia, trying thus to school myself to 
endure this spectacle of the barbarity of Europe. True, 
we are cruel. But I recalled our great houses that offer 
their shelter to the oppressed and unfortunate, I remem- 
bered our women, queens in the houses of their hus- 
bands or in the courts of love. With what ceremonies, 
what offerings of poetry,of flowers, with what respectful 
and sincere homage, the men of Asia succeed at last in 
arriving as far as our singers, our reciters, our serpent- 
charmers, and how much more must they offer of 
devotion and ardour before they see the face of even 
our littlest flower in the garden of love's joys ! 

No, no ! I shuddered, trying to forget this glimpse of 
the incredible grossness and brutality of the civilized 
West. What culture, what beauty, what health could 
flow from a society which defiled the holiest temples, 
which felt only amusement or indifference before the 
sight of degraded womanhood ? I saw in the Occident 
a monster, where I had expected a god. 

Only at midnight, in the light of the moon, would I 
go into the Sahara to gaze at the Sphinx. I had been 



warned that during the day I would see upon her head 
English women in tweed coats, and on the summits of 
the pyramids American tourists peacefully enjoying 

I saw the Sphinx ; she seemed to crouch there with 
eyes upon the horizon, mocking by her indifference the 
little peoples and civilizations that through thousands 
of years have fought out their little quarrels around her, 
even striking her with the balls from their cannon. 
What could those balls do to her, though they be those 
of Napoleon ? Her secrets, her mystery, only the 
Sahara knows. 

But it seemed to me that I saw in her my East ; 
mystic, dreamy, sister of eternity, enduring with eyes 
fixed on far horizons through all the centuries in which 
the little western peoples rise and fall like gnats. 

I saw also the pyramids. We entered one by a tiny 
door, and after following, bent double, a long narrow 
sandy corridor, we entered a funeral hall. The Arabian 
guides lighted up with torches the walls of sparkling 
black granite. I had hoped to see, majestic in its 
sarcophagus, the changeless case of flesh which had held 
the soul of a Pharaoh. But it was explained to me that, 
for the convenience of western tourists, the mummies 
had been moved to a museum. 

Leaving the pyramids, we went then to see Pharaoh 
in the place to which they had removed him. After 
pointing out, in a showcase, a collection of the rarest 
butterflies of Africa, the guide showed me, in another 
glass box, a mummy. I read on a little card, " Rhamses 
II, called Sesostris Pharaoh." O Europe, with what 
grace you unveil the past of its mysteries ! 



Even thus coarsely ridiculed, Rhamses was beautiful 
and majestic. A grave face, browned by the balsams, 
an aquiline nose. At the corners of his imperious, 
wilful lips, a smile of disdain. On his haughty forehead 
a rebel lock of shining blue-black hair. One fine hand 
lifted, the other laid upon his heart as though he wished 
to hide it from profane eyes. . . . 

O heart of Pharaoh ! Before the eyes that look on 
you now, you need no concealment ; they cannot see 

It was thus in Egypt that I first met Europe. It is 
true that it was not great Europe, but an uncertain and 
Levantine Europe, mixed with an Asia Europeanized 
and burlesqued. Wounded and incredulous, I told 
myself that I saw here neither the true Asia nor the true 

Until then I had imagined Europe as all my people 
imagine it. We knew it only by splendid photographs 
where all the houses, tall and luxurious, seemed to us 
palaces, where the pavement was of smooth marble, and 
each lantern that lighted the streets was a moon. We 
heard that in Europe all men were equal and free, and 
it was only for the general order and happiness that now 
and then they freely chose one of their number for a 
ruler. There, in Europe, a perfect justice perfumed 
the sky. 

Half-gods, the men of the western countries knew 
everything, were able to do everything. They were 
ignorant of the tumult of the senses thai 
our dreamy gardens among the fountains. Proud, '. 
rivalled even the stars. Mounted on little win 
sylphs, like our Soleinun upon his magic carpet, they 



soared among the stars, their brothers. Imperious and 
warlike, they dreamed of conquering far-away planets, 
their future homes. And we were persuaded that one 
day we would see them go to the moon and come back 
with as much ease as they came from their distant 
countries into our dull and disenchanted corners of the 

The wives of these half -gods were as mysterious to us 
as the European fairies, of which our legends of the 
Crusades keep such enchanting traces. Blonde and 
slender, with eyes as pure as the sky, these women, these 
flowers of the snowy countries, wore proudly the golden 
helmet of their marvellous hair. Free as the wind, and 
scornful as the Amazons of ancient Caucasus, they 
treated with contempt their men, from among whom 
they chose now and then, for an hour or two, the most 
handsome for their queen-like care-free loves. 

We did not doubt that this Europe of Titans and 
heroes created Jeanne d'Arcs and Napoleons as often as 
Ophelias and Marguerites. In comparison with their 
world we felt that ours was a clod of earth. During our 
great receptions the presence of the beautiful European 
women with naked shoulders filled us with timidity. 
Bold with our men, they were so mocking, so haughty 
toward us, whom they treated as slaves. When we 
spoke of Europeans our voices unconsciously became 
grave and respectful, as when one addresses a parent, 
and our humble praises of them were always mixed with 
blame for all that is Asiatic. How profane appeared to 
us the efforts of an Asiatic to imitate a European ! Was 
it possible to imitate a god, or to equal the sun ? 

It was in Egypt that I first came in contact with 
Europe. But I was too dreamy ; the reality pierced 



very slowly the veils of reverie which protected my soul. 
Far from my Persia and my Caucasus, I was drawn more 
closely to them by a profound nostalgia. And having 
set aside my pride and my prejudices against the dancers, 
I lost myself in the poetry of my dances. When with 
half-closed eyes, to the sound of the stringed instru- 
ments, I drew with my naked feet the arabesques of our 
dances upon the Persian carpets, I would forget that I 
was very far from the dear walls of our gardens. My 
dancing was also a mute but eloquent language by 
which I said to those who treated us with contempt that, 
although humble in our inferiority to Europeans, we 
nevertheless have a little grace and tenderness, and that 
even in our dreaminess there is splendour. In my 
illusion I thought that the watching demi-gods would 
mingle with their disdain for us also a little understand- 
ing and respect. 

But the more I knew of these gods and their Europe, 
the more I withdrew within myself, burying jealously 
in my secret depths all that was sensitive and poetic. 
Thus I was wounded less. 

Around me, too, I saw for the first time " civilized " 
Asia. Until then I had known only the Asia of the 
great patriarchal traditions. The world of European- 
ized Asiatics was entirely unknown to me. This world, 
in contact with the vulgar Occident, unfortunately bor- 
rowed from it only its depravities, and among others, 
the revolting fashion of treating as animals the unhappy 
women who have not the fortune to be protected by 
father or husband. And in tins attitude, where the 
European has a touch of the oaive and childlike even in 
his brutality, the Asiatic becomes simply hideous. Tin 
is because he comes from the midst of Orientals and 



knows that respect for all women, even the most un- 
happy, is the noblest sentiment of mankind. In the 
true Orient, the most depraved man venerates instinc- 
tively in every woman the image of her who gave him 
birth. Therefore the Asiatic outrages his own soul in 
imitating the European who treats certain women as 
" fallen," and his brutality has the ruthlessness of the 
fanatic convert who desecrates the altars of his forsaken 

Thus in Cairo one evening I saw, with sick incredu- 
lous eyes, one of our most sacred dances degraded into a 
bestiality horrible and revolting. It was our poem of 
the mystery and pain of motherhood, which all true 
Asiatic men watch with reverence and humility, in the 
far-away corners of Asia where the destructive breath 
of the Occident has not yet penetrated. In this olden 
Asia which has kept the dance in its primitive purity, it 
represents maternity, the mysterious conception of life, 
the suffering and the joy with which a new soul is 
brought into the world. Could any man born of 
woman contemplate this most holy subject, expressed 
in an art so pure and so ritualistic as our eastern dance, 
with less than profound reverence ? Had this been 
told me, I could not have believed it. Such is our 
Asiatic veneration of motherhood, that there are coun- 
tries and tribes whose most binding oath is sworn upon 
the stomach, because it is from this sacred cup that 
humanity has issued. 

But the spirit of the Occident had touched this holy 
dance, and it became the horrible danse du ventre, the 
hoochie-koochie. To me, a nauseating revelation of 
unsuspected depths of human bestiality, to others it was 
— amusing. I heard the lean Europeans chuckling, I 



saw lascivious smiles upon even the lips of Asiatics, and 
I fled. 

In my sad adventures in Egypt I was to meet often 
this type of civilized Asiatic, which the West calls 
" picturesque," and the more I clashed with it, the 
more I opened my sleeping eyes. 

my beautiful ignorance, which had made me love 
humanity as the most splendid flower in the beautiful 
garden of the Creator ! 

1 was presented to X . . . Pasha, then newly ap- 
pointed King of Albania. He was organizing a splendid 
fete for the anniversary of the Khedive's coronation. 
The Halim Palace, one of the most beautiful in Egypt, 
was opened for the festivities. A number of halls, 
draped in the different styles of the Orient, were set 
aside for me and the musicians who were to accompany 
my dances. 

The Khediva was a Turkish princess. As a Mussul- 
man, she could not mix with the European guests, and 
an entertainment was offered her separately, in the 

I entered, draped in several transparent veils. At the 
end of the long salon, draped in purple, blue, and r< 
and lighted by latticed and curtained windows I saw 
the Khediva. A suite of pretty Khanoums-Em , 
Turkish and Arabian, dressed in white n.bes embroid- 
ered with gold, surrounded her divan. Of the Khediva, 
one saw only the sparkle of eyes beneath her vuh. 

In the respectful Asiatic manner, my musicians had 
turned their backs upon the Khediva, which obliged me 

to follow witli my dance the breezes « >f kheii ini piration, 
a task indeed awkward for an A liatic dancer wn< 



tures are always followed by the music and not con- 
trolled by it. 

After the dance, the Khediva called me to her and 
embraced me affectionately. 

" They tell me that you come from very far," she 
said graciously. 

" I come from Iran," I replied, installing myself upon 
the cushions to which she invited me with a gesture. 

" But you are Circassian ? " 

" So be it if my Sultana wishes it. I am so called in 
the Turkish harems." 

" Ah, you are then an Armenian ? " 

" It is as my Sultana has said." 

" But why does one speak of the Armenians as Circas- 
sians in the Turkish harems ? " 

" Because, O my Sultana, the Circassians are Mussul- 
mans. To love a Circassian is not a sin against 
Mohammed. But to love an Armenian is to love a 
Christian, a Giaour. Therefore in the harems the 
Armenians are called Circassians." 

The Khediva smiled, and held out to me a little 
copper medal. 

" It is for you to treasure as a remembrance of our 
Khediva," one of the Khanoum-Emires explained to me. 

Shocked at the small splendour of this gift of copper, 
I tried to console myself by thinking that it had perhaps 
come to her from the treasures of some Pharaoh Cheops 
or Sesostris. In any case, I soon lost it. 

The same evening all European Egypt crowded itself 
into the Halim Palace. After my dances I was pre- 
sented to the European wife of the Khedive, formerly a 
cook in his palace. However, it was considered an 
honour to be presented to this European Khediva. 



Sanctified by the crown, her pots and pans were for- 

Blonde and soft, like a pinkish paste, she was stretched 
out on a long chair, throwing flowers to her guests and 
calling everyone " thee " and " thou." Her vigorous 
laughter undulated her plump stomach ; the fragments 
of her laugh scattered through all the halls and caused 
even the immobile negroes at the thresholds to smile. 

Bewildered, I asked myself why, in their marriages 
with Europeans, our great rulers always prefer the cooks 
to the ladies. Is it because the servants, more naive 
and spontaneous than their mistresses, arc more nearly 
like the Asiatic women than are the great dames of 
Europe, filled with cold artifices of the heart and the 
spirit ? 

I was obliged to admit to myself that at the very 
sight of his monocle my heart became a cold wall against 
which the most passionate entreaties of an English 
gentleman broke in vain. Can this owl love ? I asked 
myself in amazement. 

What illegible hieroglyphics were the Englishmen 
and Americans in my hotel ! Wrinkled like our eunuchs, 
with eyes as cold as those of fishes, they stretched out 
in their chairs, pipes in mouths. Their large feet were 
raised nonchalantly near the noses of their wives. Thin 
and corseted to the chin, these wives held themselv< ; 
correctly erect on their hard chairs. I became dizzy in 
trying to imagine how these people expressed to each 
other their loves. 

Do the long stiff arms of these nun know how to 
embrace? Do their teeth sometimes unloosen i" 
abandon their pipes, and do ardent w le from 

those severe mouths ? Do those gloom) ey< everlight 



with the fires of joy, love, or anger ? And their wives, 
those ladies so stiff, so grave, and so shamelessly naked 
in their evening gowns, do they ever feel a longing for 
natural grace and suppleness ? 

I had been escorted to the fete of the Khedive by an 
Armenian Khan of Constantinople, then a diplomat at 
Cairo. He was an old man, very grave beneath his red 
fez. Small but sturdy, with a long grey beard, this 
venerable man inspired in me a sentiment of extreme 
and timid modesty. Therefore, after having danced 
with naked feet for the Khediva, I had put on my 
stockings and hidden my throat to dance for the 

" My daughter," said the Khan, " show everyone 
by your dances that the virtue of Armenian women is 
their modesty." 

I danced, therefore, not only with my eyes closed and 
my mouth compressed, but even without breathing, 
fearing that to breathe would give my body a suggestion 
of voluptuousness. 

The Khan was delighted. 

" Continue to live proudly, my child," he said to me. 
" Refuse all the dinners and suppers that will be offered 
you, and return at once to your rooms." 

We lived in the same hotel, and it was to this admir- 
able protector that I had been recommended by my 
friends in Constantinople. He was watching over me 
like a father, and I was deeply touched by his care. 
Dinners and suppers ? No dragon could have fright- 
ened me more than those words. 

Having bowed before the European wife of the 
Khedive, then, I directed my steps toward the doors. 



Between two rows of guests we advanced like a nuptial 
procession. The Khan led it. Majestic as a ship, he 
walked before me with a slow and even step ; I followed 
him humbly, my head bowed beneath the curious eyes 
of the assembly. Three Albanians followed carry- 
ing my flowers, and behind them a little negro bore on a 
tray my tambourine and cymbals. 

The Khan was disappearing into the shadows of the 
gardens when a hand stopped me beneath the arcades. 
It was the Pasha. His eyes lifted toward the ceiling, he 
sighed rapturously. He spoke to me of my snowy 
mountains, of the black diamonds of my eyes. Alas, 
was that all that he remembered of my dance-poems ? 
I blushed, I paled, my heart beat. In my confusion I 
forgot for an instant the venerable Khan who waited 
outside with my negro and my carriage. 

Then I hurried blindly onward, half detained by the 
Pasha's hand on my arm and his voice that poured a 
Hood of compliments into my cars. We reached the 
gates, the Pasha trembling, I astounded at his audacity. 

A servant said to us, " His Excellency has departed, 
very much enraged." 

" So much the better," said the Pasha, and turning 
to me he said, " My house is vast, and it is yours. 
Allah be praised if he leads us to Paradise there." 

" Allah would not be so cruel, Pasha. After entering 
your house I could hide my shame only in the abysses of 
hell. I am Christian, Pasha. Allow me t' 

" There is neither Mahomet nor Christ, my beautiful 
dove. There is only one true religion, and that u bye." 

" Your words are useless, Pasha. 1 beg JTOtt, I 
carriage. I am a Christian." 

I finally reached my hotel, trembling. 1 had hardly 



taken off my cloak when a servant came, inviting me to 
drink a cup of tea with the Khan. It was midnight, but 
I could only obey my venerable protector. I hastened 
to his suite. Buried in an arm-chair, silent and motion- 
less, the noble Khan had the air of a god of vengeance. 

" Khan," I said timidly, " I made you wait. I have 
no excuse to offer, but pardon me in the name of Christ, 
I beg you." 

" Pardon you ? "he said after a long silence. " You 
know not even the respect due to my grey beard. I 
waited at the doors like a eunuch while you lent your 
ears to the impious flatteries of a Mussulman, of a 
Turk." There were tears in his voice. 

" O Khan ! " I wept. " May the earth open beneath 
my feet and may hell swallow me. How could I treat 
you as a eunuch, I who am so obedient to you, so 
humble ? " And I respectfully kissed his hand. Two 
tears fell from my eyes upon it. 

" Well," he sighed, " may God pardon you if pardon 
is possible." 

I could not speak for sobs, and again kissed his hand. 

" We are in Egypt, my daughter," he said. " Egypt 
is Europe. And in Europe all customs are different 
from ours, and it is the men who kiss the hands of the 

" I respect my elders too much to allow myself to 
follow such a custom," I said, intending to flatter him. 

" I am not so old as you think, my daughter," he 
replied, irritated. " I am only sixty years old, and in 
Europe that is like thirty years with us." 

I did not know. 

He kissed my hand. I was confused. This custom 
seemed to me very humiliating for an old man. He 



rose and began to walk back and forth. I installed 
myself comfortably upon a divan. He was about to 
lecture me again on morals. These lectures consisted 
in teaching me that evil spirits dress in seductive robes 
all the vices of the world, of which the chief is art. 

" Your feet are set upon a downward path, my 
daughter," he sighed. " You will soon be changed 
from an honest woman to an artist. Your fall is inevit- 
able. You are young, you are alone, you dance. . . . 
One sees your face, your naked feet. . . . Corruption 
awaits you. I see it." 

Troubled and unhappy, I asked him what was this 
corruption. It was, he said, the love of the rich, pearls, 
diamonds, magnificent apartments. 

" Never, never, dear Khan ! I swear to you by 
heaven and all the angels, never will I love a rich man. 
Besides, by nature I rather incline toward the poor 

" O unfortunate child, that is more terrible still," 
he answered. " The poor will not love you any better 
than the rich. Tired of your love, they will one day 
leave you quite alone, leave you to die beneath the walls 
of some public garden in the cruel cities of Europe. 
I see clearly your future, O my daughter ! — the damp 
cellars, the cold garrets, hunger, filth, rags . . . 
unhappy girl ! " 

Desolate and terrified, I began to wei p, 

" Be comforted," he said. " In Egypt you arc not 
alone, no one will harm you. I watch over you, because 
I love you, as you know." 

" I also, I venerate you with all my soul, dear Khan. 
You will not abandon me i<> hunger and rags, will you ?" 

" Never, my pigeon. Never, my dove." 



But the words he had spoken continued to blow 
through my spirit like the bleak wind of the desert. 
Alone outside the walls of all the world's gardens, how 
could I escape the miseries he had prophetically fore- 
seen ? I continued to weep, and from the depths of 
my soul I cried to him, " Oh, tell me, how can I die ? 
O my father, I want to die before my fall ! " 

" Poor child," he said, holding my head against his 
breast. " Listen to me. I know that you esteem me 
and that you follow all my counsels. Listen to me, 
then. I offer you my love and protection, will you 
accept them ? You shall have all of my life that 
remains, and when I die I will leave you all my fortune. 
You will be married then (I suppose) to an honest man, 
and you will grow old an honest woman. Will you, my 
little dove ? " 

This conclusion to his paternal lectures was to me an 
earthquake. What ? This Armenian patriarch ? 
Was this, then, a noble father of my race, this monster 
transformed by Europe ? O Eternal Father ! 

Covering my face with my hands I left him without 
a word. Reaching my room, I threw myself on a divan 
and wept until dawn. 

" Celestial Father, Divine Protector ! I do not 
wish to voyage any more. I do not want to see the 
glorious cities of Europe, nor the Indies, nor Japan ! I 
fear the old men, all the elders of the world. O God ! 
O Heaven ! O Christ ! Why is Thy curse laid on me ? 
Why hast thou led me forth from my country, from 
Thine own Eden ? " 

At dawn I fell asleep, all exhausted with sobs. I was 
awakened by a servant who brought a little package. 
It was a beautiful ring, which the Khan had sent me. 



His card said that he had gone to Alexandria in order 
not to be a witness of my inevitable ruin. 

So I remained all alone in Cairo. I had no one for a 


That evening I received the visit of a Bey, also an 
Armenian and a Turkish diplomat. He was a giant, tall 
and blond. He had been presented to me at the fete 
in the Halim Palace as the best friend of the Pasha. He 
invited me to dinner with a party of friends at his house 
the following evening. " The Pasha has invited us to 
bring you later to supper at the palace," he said. 
Honoured by this double invitation, and eager to forget 
my unhappiness in conversation with the noble society 
of Egypt, I consented. 

The following day, then, I made myself beautiful. 
My face, pale and saddened by the Khan's sacrilege, 
regained a little of its serenity. My white veils bor- 
dered with silver gave me a candid air, and I felt that 
thus I would inspire the respect of the personages I was 
to meet. 

The Bey was announced ; he awaited me in his 
carriage. I entered it, and we drove away. We cro 
all Cairo, we left the city behind us, and went straight 
forward into the desert. 

" Your house is indeed far, my Bey," I said to 

"Yes, I live in the remote suburbs of Cairo."' 

The carriage stopped at tall gates. In the darkness 
I saw only a few palm trees. Beyond the palms the 
contours of a great palace could hardly be distinguished. 
No light in the windows. 

"Your house has the appearance of a moi . I 

d.s. 255 I 


said, laughing. " Are you leading me here to assassin- 
ate me ? " 

Two footmen assisted us to dismount from the 

" Why are the windows not lighted ? " the Bey 
roared at them in a furious voice. 

" But His Excellency himself commanded that " 

His Excellency drowned their words in a violent flood 
of mixed Arabic and Turkish. 

" This Bey is indeed not a very gentle character," I 

" Enter," he commanded me. I obeyed immediately. 

We came from the darkness into a sumptuous hall. 
Above, high walls ornamented with ancient armour ; 
below, a stairway draped with damask, leading down- 

" Descend," the Bey said, with an imperious gesture 
toward these steps. 

I hesitated. Without knowing why, I felt my heart 
beating painfully. " But, O Bey, do you not prefer to 
dine upstairs ? Underground rooms make me sad." 

" My friends are waiting for us below," he said 
in Armenian. " Do not make me ridiculous before my 

The sound of my own tongue made me docile. 
The traditional submission to the man, master of the 
household, completely submerged my will. Such is 
the power of custom. 

I descended and found myself in a little Turkish 
room without doors or windows, completely draped 
with red stuffs of Damascus. Along the walls a number 
of divans. On little tables encrusted with mother-of- 
pearl, a cold dinner set out. 



" But where are your friends ? " 

" Do you think I am so stupid as to spoil the pleasure 
of having you alone in my house ? " he said laughing, 
taking off his cloak. 

" Christ and all the Prophets ! " 

Useless to remember all the burlesque scenes that 
the Bey made me witness. He lost all self-control. 
His blue eyes became black. He was in turn purple 
and pale, in turn amiable, brutal, sentimental, furious. 
Sometimes I was his little dove, his flower, his angel of 
Paradise; again, howling with rage, he called me probably 
wounding names, of whose meaning I was ignorant. 

" I understand," he said. " You must be paid in 

He drew from his fingers two enormous rings of dia- 
monds and placed them before me. I leaned against 
the wall, weeping bitterly. 

" All the Satans of Hell ! What is it you want, 
then ? " And he hurled against the walls all the cups 
and bottles, even the tables themselves. Then he 
turned to me. Without having tasted the wines, he 
appeared intoxicated. I froze before this giant whose 
face was contracted with anger and desire. Thus for 
the first time I found myself confronting the degrading 
brutality which the West has taught the East to call 

" When a woman wounds such sincere love, one takes 
her by force," he said in a smothered voice. 

" Very well, O Bey," I replied in a calm and deci 
tone. "I am helpless. But know that • < >w 

morning I shall be found dead on my divan, and that all 
Cairo and the East shall know why." 

I really wished to kill myself. When one is y 



one plays so easily with life. My threat to the Bey was 
sincere. The disgust he had inspired in me spread to 
cover the whole world, and my indignation was pro- 

Many expressions passed over the Bey's face, while 
I stood before him proud and indifferent in my cold 
hatred. At last he groaned, clenched his teeth, and 
controlled himself. A few minutes went by in silence. 
With a broken gesture he picked up his little cap and 
gave me a weary look. He had the air of a sick 

At the submissive aspect of this giant, a sort of com- 
passion came over me. What a bizarre thing is the 
human heart ! Not only did I pardon him in an instant 
all the suffering he had made me undergo during two 
hours, but I felt a desire to comfort and protect 

" My poor Bey," I said, putting my hands on his 

Surprised by the tenderness of my voice, he looked at 
me in astonishment. Something gentle and yielding 
replaced for an instant the hardness in his eyes. For 
that second his eyes were those of a man of the East, 
who knows and reveres the divinity of love. 

Happily, at that instant some one opened the door. 
I collected myself, drew my veils around me, and left. 

" Admit," he said, helping me from the carriage at 
my hotel, " that a less scrupulous man than I would 
simply have drugged your wine. But you were with a 

I was astounded. 

Just at midnight I entered the palace of the Pasha. 



In a great hall lighted by innumerable lanterns a society- 
composed of all races and all religions, perfumed, 
glittering with pearls and diamonds, greeted me with 
shouts of laughter and applause. 

Far from being flattered by such a warm greeting, I 
disliked it, and halted on the threshold, unwilling to 
advance. The Pasha ran to me, grasping my hand, and 
thanked me for enabling him to win a large bet. 

I understood nothing, but the mystery was soon 
explained. I learned that I had been the subject of a 
wager between the Bey and the Pasha. The Bey had 
arrived an hour earlier, claiming that he had won, and 
upholding his claim with a wealth of detail, but his 
aspect had so contradicted his words that the company 
had laughed at him, and he had left in angry confusion. 
My heart overflowing with indignation, I made every 
effort to restrain my tears. 

A Russian approached me to shelter me from the 
jokes that were wounding my ears, then not accustomed 
to the crudities of European language, where one uses 
unconcernedly words that one docs not hear in my 

" Do not be so unhappy," this Russian begged me. 
The Russians, who arc half Asiatic, always understand 
me. " These arc really innocent ban mots. You must 
accustom yourself to this European gallantry I t Egypt. 
Here even the Asiatics respect only tho ( ' 'ital 
women who have never leaped the walls of their 

He continued : " The Levantine society in Egypt is 
composed mostly of adventurers of all kind-." And he 
presented to me successively all the quests of th 1" 
accompanying each name with the DK 



remarks. There were nothing but " counts " and 
" barons." He presented me to three blonde prin- 
cesses, Abdullah, Ibrahim, and Ismail, telling me that 
they were all singers in the European cabarets of 
Morocco and Algiers before their rise to thrones. 

Among all the people who surrounded and frightened 
me in Egypt, there was one whom I sincerely esteemed 
and whose memory remains dear to me. He was an 
Italian, a Neapolitan count. He lived in a pretty little 
villa drowned beneath a sea of palm-fronds, and occu- 
pied himself with journalism. A widower, father of a 
child, he was good, wise, and charming. His goodness, 
which covered all the world, spread itself over me. He 
was troubled for my future. 

" But what are your prospects ? " he asked me con- 

This was an embarrassing question ; my prospects 
were vague even to myself. On days when the sun was 
hidden and when my spirit ached with an indefinite 
sadness, I replied, " I shall go straight from here to 
Jerusalem to shut myself for ever in a convent ; I have a 
letter to our Patriarch of Jerusalem." 

On days when the glowing sun kindled in me a desire 
for lands still warmer than Egypt I told him, " I shall 
go to the Indies ; I have letters to the Maharajahs 
of Haiderabad and of Mador." 

" But what will you do there, all alone ? " he asked me 

" I shall dance in their palaces, and I shall visit one 
by one all the princes of the Himalayas. Some day 
perhaps I shall marry one of those Rajahs. I shall have a 
house of marble upon a lake covered with water-lilies. 



I shall have little elephants which I shall raise to hunt 
the lions and the tigers." 

" And if none of these Rajahs wish to marry 
you ? " 

" So much the worse for them. I will enter the caste 
of the bayaderes, and dance in the temples and in the 

" But when you grow old ? " 

" I shall gain my bread as a beggar on the street 

" Kind Lord ! " cried the good Neapolitan. 

But I was sincere. Though so newly come from the 
chrysalis, I felt my wings beginning to expand. I can- 
not say that my poor freedom intoxicated me, but the 
dream of Freedom still had that power. And the 
bazaars of Asia would please me as much as our palaces. 
When I grew old, begging my bread under the beautiful 
sun did not appear to me at all as a dishonourable end 
for a once-brilliant bayadere. 

To save me from such adventures, this charming 
gentleman offered me his name, his home and all that 
he possessed ; a heart full of tenderness and a peaceful 
life in his chateau on the outskirts of Naples. 

" An old chateau ! . . . The Adriatic! . . . Seren- 
ades ! ..." I dreamed. Perhaps it would be 
beautiful as the palaces of the Rajahs on the bank 
the Ganges. This charming man would lie my faithful 
husband, and his child, without my having to uiul 
the pain of child-birth, would call me mother. I 9 
touched to tears, and this future seemed to I 
beautiful as a legend. 

" Yes, yes, I must marry him," I de< ided, and n< I 
ling beside him, " Tell me," I said, l> when I am your 



wife, we shall go just the same to China and Japan, is 
it not so ? There I shall dance for all the great 
Mandarins, all the Haus, all the Maos, and you, you 
will defend me against all the diplomats of those 

" Oh no, my beautiful ! " he protested, shocked, 
" I am not at all the man for such a role. The love 
of an Italian is absolute ; it surrenders all, it demands 
all. I shall be for you all your joys, all your art, all your 
life ! " And he embraced me passionately. My 
thoughts immediately took another turn. 

" To bury myself with this man, under the roof of an 
old house in the country. Husband ! . . . Slippers ! 
. . . Spectacles ! . . . Journals ! . . . O horror ! " 
And my handsome Rajahs with haughty profiles, 
those bronze-coloured, proud Rajahs, so humble at the 
feet of the bayadere ! And my palanquins, my little 
elephants, my tigers, my lions ! My palace of marble 
on the water-lily lake ! 

" No, no," I said, disengaging myself firmly from 
the arms of the good Neapolitan. " I like better to 
continue my vagabond life." And I said farewell to the 
charming count, farewell to Naples and the old chateau 
in which I would have been the imprisoned chatelaine. 
So ended this dream. But it was beautiful. 

Returning to my hotel, I determined to go at once to 
the Indies. I had given my last dance at Alexandria, 
nothing held me in Egypt, and I was weary of it. I 
was looking at my costumes and jewels, choosing those 
I would take with me, when two Englishmen were 
announced. They invited me to dance for one year in 
England and in America. 



To dance for one whole year, and every day ! Such 
a pleasure appeared to me incredible and impossible. 
Moreover, I could not imagine their motive in suggest- 
ing it. 

" No," I told them. " However, I shall perhaps 
go some day to dance before your kings and princes." 

" America has no kings," one of the Englishmen 
explained to me. " As for us, we have only one king 
and very few princes. I know only one, the Prince of 

" But that makes only two evenings in all. Deci- 
dedly that is too little for which to undertake so long a 

" Ah, but you will have two hundred large music- 
halls, and we will give you fifty thousand francs for the 

The splendour of the music-halls was unknown to 
me. The fifty thousand francs did not at all impress 
me either. I was completely ignorant of the value of 
all the money of the world. 

" What, then, are music-halls ? " 

The Englishmen described them to me. A B1 
and lights, and many people ; applause, rlo\vcr>. Si ill, 
these appeared to me pale in comparison with the 

My friends arrived just as I was finally and emphatic- 
ally refusing this offer. 

" Are you crazy ?" they cried. ''Think! London, 
Paris, New York! Fame, fortune, fifty thousand 
francs ! " 

I replied sadly, " But the Indies with all my Raj 
And Jerusalem, and my Patrian h ! " 

" It is madness to renounce such an opportunity, 



my friends insisted. " Forget these vague and 
uncertain adventures. Go to London ; go to shine in 
the civilized countries." 

With a sorrowful heart I finally signed a large paper 
written in English, of which I did not understand one 
word. My friends assured me that everything was 
written there in the most honest manner. The two 
Englishmen placed their names beside mine, and con- 
fided to me this large paper. And that evening, during 
a supper which my friends gave to celebrate this stroke 
of fortune, I learned that I was now a star, an artist of 
the music-halls. This was incomprehensible to me. 
To be a star ! How beautiful ! But my very soul 
shuddered at that word " artist." 

At the end of the banquet, toward dawn, I went 
back to my rooms very much oppressed, ill. I felt 
vaguely that I had sold to those two Englishmen that 
which was dearest to me beneath the sun, my liberty. 
I looked at the enigmatic words to which I had signed 
my name. The hateful paper burned my hands. 
Tear it up ! But, no. I had been warned that if any 
harm came to that paper I would be put in prison, 
because such papers are sacred in the civilized countries. 

Without undressing, I lay down, but sleep fled from 
my eyelids. 

Occident ! England ! America ! Celestial Father, 
what should I do all alone in that world ? How would 
I live in a country where the sun, I had been told, 
resembled a disk of ice, and the stars are hidden, and 
the sky weeps without ceasing, where the moon herself 
wears always veils of fog ? 

And for this miserable fate, I had for ever ceased to 
be Khanoum, I had become an artist ! 



The word made me shudder. Under that name, in 
the Orient, one spoke of the unfortunate women 
brought from the Occident by slave-merchants. No 
one remembered ever to have seen a performance given 
by these artists, because on the very day of their arrival 
they were bought for a sum of gold and disappeared 
into private harems. 

" O Heaven ! " I prayed, lifting my wet eyes toward 
the ceiling, " do not let me become one of those 
unhappy little ones ! Shame to me, and shame to 
Thee, O Divine Father, if Thou allowest one who clings 
to the hem of Thy garments to fall so low ! Do I not 
love everywhere, good or bad, the work of Thy hands ? 
Can Thy Heavenly Wisdom condemn me to fall into 
the Dark Abyss ? No, no, for that would be Thy fault, 
not mine. I am only a feeble candle in Thy hands, a 
grain of dust beneath Thy feet ! " 

In the morning, after a cold bath, I was able to calm 
myself a little. 

" Courage," I thought. " The four walls of a gar- 
den are no longer around me, the patriarchs no longer 
watch over me. Then deeds, not lamentations ! I ) 
tiny guides me toward new horizons. I must submit. 
Farewell to my dreams, farewell to my sun ! I am 
now become an artist." 

From that moment I became independent, that is to 
say, thrown to the mercy of events. 

Independence ! Proud word, created to reduce the 
proudest to slavery. 

I left Egypt. The warm wind of the Sahara 
gilding with yellow dust the low shores of the Mediter- 



p? I left Asia. It seemed to me that I was leaving a 
planet dear to me, going to another planet unknown. 
Far away, cold and arid, this new world terrified me. 
I felt confusedly that there I would be as alien as an 
animal of the days before the Flood, left stranded among 
the new inhabitants of the world. 
iv My heart, my poor frozen heart, broke into a thou- 
sand pieces. Crushed by an impalpable burden, I 
touched my shoulders to be sure that the sky was not 
resting upon them its heavy arches. 

The bridge which joined the ship with the land of 
Egypt was lifting. It seemed to me that all the cords 
which united me to the Orient were being cut. 

Asia, O my sun ! I leave you, perhaps for ever. 
Will I be able to live without you ? To what does 
this huge ship, this sea-monster, carry me away ? 

And the Europeans, enclosed with me upon this ship, 
how ugly they are ! These blonde people with un- 
natural, colourless skins, who smile at me, how I detest 
them ! One of them wishes to speak to me, O Heaven ! 

1 fled into my cabin and began to weep, my face 
sunk into the cushions of my bed. As in the agony of 
the drowning, all the countries, all the houses that I 
had known, all the living and dead faces, all that was 
dear and terrible to me, rushed before my eyes from I 
know not where. Laughing and weeping, I wiped 
them away with my burning hands, but they returned. 
Among the others, a face with an aureole of luminous 
rays rested upon me two sorrowful eyes. It leaned 
toward me, and I felt a kiss on my forehead. My 
mother, my adorable mother ! At this very hour, 
without doubt, she was praying for me, far, far away 
among the mountains of my Caucasus. 



Mother, where am I going ? Oh come with me ; I 
am afraid ! Eternal Saviour, God of Kindness, God 
of Mercy, what horrors dost Thou reserve for me in 
the unknown lands of the Occident ? I am alone. 
O Great God, watch over me, protect me ! 







Ohanian, Arm'